This morning Rep. Tricia Cotham (D - Mecklenburg) hosted a conference call on North Carolina's budget. The call included Charlotte area elected officials, teachers, advocates, clergy, and neighborhood leaders.
Three weeks ago our budget deficit was 3.3 billion dollars. It was 4.2 billion dollars as of last Monday, and it is 4.6 billion dollars today. This number will likely be revised again.
Conservatives, led by budget and policy experts like Joe the Plumber, have a solution for this problem. Its the solution they have for most problems: cut public service and public servants
The "low-lights" of the proposed cuts are beneath the fold.
1.8 billion in cuts to education, including:
- Reduction in the number of teachers by at least 12,000, this number likely to be increased by 18,000
- ALL teacher assistants in 3rd grade classrooms
- Cuts to the number of social workers working with abused children and foster care children without parents
- Class size increase by 2 additional students per class
- 50 school nurses to be fired
- 7% of all janitors, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers to be fired
- Elimination of 350 administrators, principals, and vice principals, increasing the workload from 750 to nearly a thousand students per administrator
- Termination of assistance for school with a concentration of children living in poverty
- Elimination of Learn and Earn
From higher education:
- 19% increase in Community College tuition
- 8% tuition increase in University tuitions
- Continuing education fees will be doubled
- 12 million dollars cut from cancer research
From services to the vulnerable:
- 20% reduction in our already troubled mental health system
- Closures of rape crisis, abuse, and sexual assault centers across the state
- The victim legal assistance program will be cut, as well as other legal services for the poor
- Elimination of 25 district attorney positions and public defenders
- 85 vital positions within the juvenile justice system will be cut including juvenile court counselors
- Cuts health insurance to children, increasing burden on emergency rooms (which will cost society more money)
- Reduction in the reimbursement rate for Medicaid, the result of which being that Mecklenburg Hospitals alone will lose 35 million
- Hospice and elderly home care cut by 50% - meaning that we will deny the elderly sick assistance with bathing, meals, and clothes
- Elimination of physical and speech therapy from Medicaid
- Elimination of dental healthcare programs for children
- Cuts to nursing homes assistance, many of those that who take care of our elderly will be fired, those that remain will be paid less
- Cuts to job placement services for those suffering from mental health conditions, increasing homelessness and further dependence on government services
- Termination of 500 public employees working in transportation
- 8 prisons to be closed, including one in Union County, - this will create a crisis of prisoner abuse and corruption in our already extremely overcrowded prisons
- Millions of dollars in law enforcement costs to be passed to counties already faced with their own budgets crisis
We must consider revenue options.
If we fail to deal with this problem now it will be made worse. Many of the above cuts will actually cost North Carolina money in the immediate future. The costs of doing nothing are unemployment, crime, deprivation, and death.
Rep. Tricia Cotham is organizing within the legislature to meet this challenge. She is advocating for a tax increase on those making over a quarter of a million dollars a year; the top 3%. 97% of the North Carolinians would NOT pay more.
Rep. Tricia Cotham: "We will not have the revenue to solve all of these problems, yet we must not balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable. This is a critical moment in NC. It is time for all of us to stand up and do what is right."
Rep. Ty Harrell had this to say about the budget: "The harsh reality of a 4.6 billion dollar budget deficit is that significant cuts will have to made, but there should also be a balanced revenue component that is included in the overarching budget plan"
Please call your elected officials and respectfully demand that they face our budget challenges and distribute the heavy burden on those best prepared to shoulder it. If you are fortunate enough to be represented by either Rep. Cotham or Rep. Harrell, please thank them for their progressive leadership.