Two state legislators from Orange County spoke to WCHL recently about what to expect from the upcoming session of the General Assembly, which resumes Wednesday.
“In the big picture, we’re going to see more of the same,” said Rep. Graig Meyer, a Democrat from District 50. “We know that there’s not going to be a significant change in the direction if the legislature, because there wasn’t a significant change in the makeup of the legislature.”
Meyer said that, with veteran leadership and established priorities, the Senate has the upper hand right now.
He said he can’t exactly predict which agenda item the Republican leadership will push first.
“In the bigger picture, the beginning of the legislative session is going to be all about revenues,” he said. “Everybody’s talking about things that they want to spend money on, but after year’s budget closed out, we knew pretty quickly that we’d be in a hole, coming into this year’s budget.”
And it’s a whopping amount.
“We’re already $200 million in the hole,” said Meyer. “And the question will be: Do we have to figure out a way ti close that? Or are we going to continue to reduce tax burdens? Certainly, the stated goal of the Senate had been, to eliminate the personal income tax. And there’s not really a clear plan on how to make up for that revenue, to be able to spend on things like teacher pay raises.”
Meyer said the only idea he’s heard from Republicans is to raise the sales tax – in which case, he added, the numbers “don’t add up.”
He told WCHL that some pragmatic Republicans, particularly in the House, are interested in economic development incentives, and maintaining obligations to public schools.
However, he said, they face opposition from within their own party, especially in the Senate.
Meyer said he’s spent a lot of time between sessions building relationships with republican colleagues, in search of positive bipartisan education policies in this session.
He said he’s interested in revising the state’s “report card” system for grading public schools.
“I don’t like that system the way it is,” he said, “because it’s just going to come across as punitive to schools that have a lot of difficult kids.”
Another Orange County Democrat, Rep. Verla Insko of District 56, said she’ll file a bill to expand Medicaid in the state when she returns to Raleigh on Wednesday.
“I expected that they would pass it in 2015,” said Insko. “And then I heard both Sen. Berger and Speaker Moore say that they weren’t going to expand it.”
She added that, realistically, she doesn’t expect the Republican leadership to move her Medicaid bill. But she said she has reason to feel optimistic that there’s a real movement toward expansion.
State legislators will have some company at on Jones Street on Wednesday.
North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber said that protesters of the Forward Together movement will be there as well.