House members ready to tackle North Carolina budget

North Carolina State Legislative Office Building (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
May 28, 2013 3:11:15 PM PDT
Lawmakers are taking another major step toward a state budget. The State House is starting to put its mark on the budget after the Senate passed its version last week.

And as with all things political, both versions have critics.

"It's sort of a perfect storm of bad ideas and right wing ideology and I think it's sending our state backward 25 years," said Chris Fitzsimon with NC Policy Watch.

Fitzsimon runs the left-leaning NC Policy Watch. That was his take on the budget the Senate released two weeks ago.

"They're making draconian cuts in a budget that nobody has ever debated or had a conversation about," said Fitzsimon. "Everything from kicking pregnant women off Medicaid, to locking 17,500 kids out of NC pre-k, to replacing prisoner legal services with computers and you go on down the line."

For Fitzsimon and other critics, the line of things to worry about in the Senate budget is packed.

It would cut $21 million out of mental health services, move poor, pregnant women from Medicaid to privatized insurance subsidies. It would also cut the Wildlife Resources Commission's budget in half, and eliminate public financing for appellate judges.

That's not to mention what critics see as regressive changes to the tax code, less money for public education, and no money for eugenics compensation.

"They're working like crazy to move it in a conservative direction," said N.C. State professor Dr. Andy Taylor.

Taylor says it's no surprise Republicans are pushing hard for systemic change. They've been out of power for more than 100 years. They have total control in Raleigh, and they're using it.

However, Taylor points out that Republicans have to be careful not to overreach.

"Can you go too far, and if you do, will there be a voter backlash," asked Taylor.

ABC11 asked House budget writer Nelson Dollar, a Republican from Wake County, if he expected a shift to the middle.  But where other Republicans in the House have indicated that may happen, Dollar wouldn't take a position.

"We're not looking at it ideologically," said Dollar. "We're looking at it in terms of what are the practical applications of the resources we have. We want to be good stewards of the states resources."

Looming over the entire budget process are very real political concerns. The top lawmakers in both the House and Senate are both thought to be considering U.S. Senate bids.

And what many observers perceive to be a power struggle in Raleigh between the legislature and the governor is also potentially at play.

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