CHAPEL HILL – Over the weekend, your state’s House and Senate leaders met to reconcile the differences between their two budget proposals. Now with a settled budget that both House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger seem happy about, passage looks likely.
But Representative Verla Insko, who represents OrangeCounty in the General Assembly, says she opposes the new budget and feels its cuts will end up costing North Carolinians more in the future.
“I just disagree with the philosophy of austerity during a recession,” Insko says. “I think stimulus makes a lot more sense.”
Among the items in the budget are a reduction in sales tax-free periods and cuts to the estate tax, corporate tax and a new income tax that would put all citizens, regardless of income level, at the same tax rate.
“There’s very little evidence, some would say no evidence, that cutting taxes for the wealthiest people actually produces any new jobs,” Insko says. “What produces new jobs is having the middle class have enough money to be able to purchase goods and services.”
State Senator Ellie Kinnaird also opposes the budget, criticizing its cuts to public sector employees.
“There’s a particularly sensitive group, the Highway Patrol, that had been promised over the years that they would have a certain percentage of pay raise every year no matter what,” Kinnaird says. “And they’ve just gone back on that.”
Insko especially criticizes cuts to child and adult service programs, namely those that deal with mental health care. She says she feels these cuts are not only unnecessary, but that it cuts more than it lets on.
“There’s a hidden $20 million cut to mental health in this budget because last year, they made a $20 million appropriation non-recurring and they didn’t fund that this year, so there’s really a $35 million cut to mental health,” Insko says.
While the state budget gives additional funding to voucher programs to help low-income families pay for private or charters schools, it also eliminates teacher tenure. Insko says that tenure should have been “tinkered with,” but not done away with altogether.
“Teachers don’t make a whole lot anyway, and job security was one of the things that allowed us to keep people who could make a lot more money in another job,” Insko says.
Kinnaird even speaks out against the funding for vouchers and says they are part of a larger goal in the state’s budget.
“Because they’ve instituted a voucher plan for private schools, that reduces the average daily funds going to the public schools,” Kinnaird says. “It’s a concerted effort to really, I think, destroy our public schools.”
While Kinnaird says that she was surprised by the “boldness” of the General Assembly’s budget, she says the individual provisions themselves were all expected.
“We’ve known, right at the beginning, what they were going to target,” Kinnaird says. “There’s nothing there that’s a surprise to me.”
Insko and Kinnaird did add that they were happy to see compensation for victims of the state’s eugenics program. Insko was one of the co-sponsors of legislation in the House to authorize compensation for the victims.