Three things in the state budget that matter to you.
Soon, the North Carolina General Assembly will begin the process of creating a state budget for the upcoming year. Because the budget is passed as a piece of legislation, it’s easy for it to feel complicated and irrelevant to our everyday lives. However, here are three state budget issues we care about passionately that will and do matter to people just like us:
For the last two years, healthcare has been the keystone fight of the North Carolina state budget. Why? Because there is a cost tied to expanding Medicaid access. Now, with a COVID relief package freshly signed by President Biden, the cost of expanding Medicaid would be covered several times over by the federal government— And that is money that we’ve already paid in our taxes.
This COVID relief package incentivizes the few remaining states (like ours!) that have not yet expanded Medicaid to do so, by increasing the amount covered by the federal government. So, an expense of under $50 million over the next two years would initiate a federal reimbursement of at least $1.7 BILLION in that same time period. That’s a win-win for us and the NCGA.
The moratorium on evictions in North Carolina is set to expire on March 31st of this year. At that point, tenants who were unable to pay their rent during the pandemic will owe back rent to their landlords.
What happens if those tenants can’t pay their rent? Their landlords will legally be allowed to begin eviction proceedings. Working-class North Carolinians are still hurting from the economic downturn. This means that low wage workers – primarily Black, Brown, and female – are those who will be least likely to pay the back rent they owe. The North Carolina General Assembly could prevent our impending eviction crisis by covering the cost of back rent owed. With no signs that they’ll choose to do that, we’re organizing communities to demand that the NCGA create a budget that averts crisis and works for the people.
North Carolina ranks 30th in the country for teacher wages. Teacher salaries are paid by the state, so the NCGA must allocate funds in the annual budget to raise their wages. The NCGA allocates educational funds to our counties which are then dispersed to schools by your local County Commissioners.
We all know that our schools are critically underfunded. Students in rural communities, particularly out West, struggle with access to basic broadband internet. This is a matter of funding for state infrastructure. In order to build the infrastructure to get broadband internet to rural and small towns, the NCGA must set aside money for those projects.
What all this tells us is that the state budget has a real and long lasting impact on our communities. The phrase “put your money where your mouth is” comes to mind. State budgeting is a reflection of our values. Do our legislators value healthcare, housing, and education like they say they do? That’s a question that will be answered soon and, by putting pressure on your representative, you can help answer it.