Above: Kathy Greggs of Fayetteville PACT is escorted out of the meeting room after behind denied the right to speak. Photo by Steven Paul Whitsitt.
Tuesday morning, Down Home organizers and members joined the North Carolina People’s Budget Coalition in Raleigh where they interrupted the House Appropriations Committee on Health and Human Services after being denied the right to comment or ask questions about the state budget. We called on the committee to use the budget to Expand Medicaid, Provide Housing Relief, and Protect Worker Rights.
Last week, Senate Republicans passed proposed budget bill SB 105 with no public input. People from across the state have publicly criticized this budget proposal because it was created without soliciting the voices of or listening to the needs of the public. This move comes at a time when millions of North Carolinians are struggling just to make ends meet. We know that there is over 7 billion in unused and unallocated funds in North Carolina and we strongly believe that at a time when an unprecedented number of our neighbors are facing eviction (moratoriums end this summer), when millions lack healthcare after facing a year and a half of a pandemic, and when essential workers continue to face low wages and safety challenges at their jobs– we believe that this money needs to be spent.
When we arrived at the NCGA, a sign up sheet for speakers was removed and the audience was informed that the committee would not be taking questions.
“This bill lines the pockets of the wealthy rather than taking up Medicaid expansion and prioritizing economic relief for the millions of North Carolinians in need. Someone has to speak to that,” said Down Home’s Gayle Schwartzburg who was present at the NCGA yesterday.
After being told that there would be no opportunity to speak, members of The People’s Budget Coalition stood up to voice their concerns during the House Appropriations Committee meeting. As local residents tried to speak, they were removed from the meeting room. One coalition member, Kathy Greggs of Fayetteville PACT, was arrested.
“The budget should never be passed without allowing the people’s voice to be heard. The people should never suffer because of decisions made by legislators who refuse to listen to them,” said Greggs. “We must stand up for our first amendment rights. For the people. And if we don’t, we lose our dignity and our humanity.”
“I believe that the reason they are afraid to spend this money is because they can not figure out personally how they can benefit from it,” said Monique Edwards of Fayetteville PACT, speaking to the millions of dollars of unallocated funds. “They’re treating these funds like it’s their personal money in their personal bank accounts. We have low teacher pay, Medicaid has still not been expanded – we have a lot of things we could spend this money on.”
You can find video of the event here on the United for Survival and Beyond Facebook page. You can read more about the North Carolina People’s Budget and add your name to the demands here.
All photos in this article were provided by Steven Paul Whitsett.