Written by Gayle Schwartzberg
Last week, Governor Cooper released a 250 page document outlining his fiscal priorities for North Carolina and a balanced budget recommendation for the next two years. Our elected representatives in the North Carolina General Assembly will now use this document to devise a 2 year budget for the state. But there’s something different about this year’s budget.
Right now, more than $5 billion in unallocated funds still sit untouched in the bank. And that number just goes up every day. Meanwhile, our most vulnerable communities are suffering from the North Carolina General Assembly’s delays in using this money. This means working and poor people, Black people, people of color, LGBTQ people, disabled people, elderly people, youth and students, parents, migrants and refugees, incarcerated people, the homeless, veterans, and women who need help NOW aren’t getting it.
So, how does Governor Cooper’s budget stack up with what we need?
GOLD: Two things that give us hope:
- Healthcare – Yet again, Governor Cooper is making the case for North Carolina to join the other 38 states in our country that have expanded Medicaid. This budget will expand health care to the 682,000 working North Carolinians that are living in the health gap, keep rural hospitals open and strong, reduce the number of uninsured veterans, and help fight the opioid epidemic. With the offer of no less than $1.7 billion dollars from the federal government to expand Medicaid in NC, the NCGA would have to reach pretty far for an excuse to deny us this health coverage.
- Education – Governor Cooper’s budget proposes providing K-12 teachers 10% raises on average over the next two years and ensuring all non-certified school personnel receive a minimum of $15/hour. Additionally this budget provides long overdue financial support to our public schools, invests in early education and child development, and makes the case for investing in broadband internet infrastructure. There’s more to be done, certainly. But this is a step in the right direction.
TIME TO BE BOLD:
- Housing – While Governor Cooper’s budget does address the need for more affordable housing and doubles our state’s housing trust fund, it fails to address a more urgent question: What will happen to families who could not afford to pay their rent or mortgage during the pandemic? When the CDC lifts its moratorium on June 30th, our state will face an evictions crisis. Meanwhile, Cooper’s budget leaves more than $1 billion of the unallocated funds untouched. Why haven’t our legislators put our unhoused neighbors into long term housing? Why are they setting people up to face eviction when there’s money in the bank to pay their rent? North Carolina needs people in office to Be Bold and fight for a world where housing is a universal right.
Now that Governor Cooper’s budget has been released, the real work starts. We know that the NCGA’s budget will look vastly different from Governor Cooper’s. And one of the biggest fights we’re anticipating? Medicaid expansion.