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In our opinion - The new state budget: Much ado about not much

At last, the North Carolina General Assembly approved a budget for the 2023-24 period. For almost three months, the MAGA Republican majority needlessly delayed raises for teachers and state workers — as well as the implementation of expanded Medicaid benefits for 600,000 North Carolinians — while arguing among themselves whether we need more gambling in the state.

The good

The new budget’s authorization for expanded Medicaid is a benefit, even though the state could have reaped millions more in federal health care dollars had the GOP majority agreed to expanded Medicaid when Obamacare was approved.

The bad

Beyond expanded Medicaid, there’s little good news to report. But there’s a lot that leaves little to be desired:

  • Teachers will receive on average a 7% raise over the biennium, well below the Democratic proposal from Governor Cooper of 16% and less than the 7.5% raise in the last budget. North Carolina teachers still rank among the lowest-paid educators in the country.

  • Republican corporate tax cuts in the budget place North Carolina on a dangerous path to a deficit, creating a potential situation where our state will have billions of dollars less in revenue by the end of the decade.

  • The Process: The GOP went nearly three months over the deadline for passing a budget and wasted more than $3 million by keeping the legislature open.

The ugly

  • The bill raises the retirement age for judges on the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals from 72 to 76. The change conveniently allows GOP Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby to stay on the bench longer.

  • The budget diverts nearly half a billion dollars to private schools and away from public schools. Private schools that receive taxpayer dollars can deny admission and discriminate against students with disabilities or students of different faiths. The budget also allows wealthy families to receive taxpayer dollars they can use to send their kids to private schools.

  • Republicans slipped in a paragraph to the budget that allows North Carolina lawmakers to decide what records in their offices are public and which ones they keep private. In response to this addition, Governor Cooper said "It's wrong for North Carolina. There should be much more transparency."

Anderson Clayton, chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party, was deeply critical of the GOP-led General Assembly’s work. “The poison pills in this budget don’t reflect the priorities of North Carolinians,” she said. “It highlights a Republican supermajority hellbent on expanding their own power for decades to come. If we want real leadership, we need to elect more democrats and end this supermajority rule in 2024.”


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