NC JUSTICE NEWS: Budget Debate Drags On + Fair Pay for Caregivers + Fight Discriminatory Policing

July 28, 2015

BUDGET CONFEREES: Tell lawmakers to avoid cuts as they deliberate budget

North Carolina state legislators ended the fiscal year without an agreed upon state budget and passed a continuing resolution to extend their budget deadline to August 14th. There are vast differences between the House and Senate’s budget proposals and neither chamber approved the other’s proposal, so they have entered the conference process and named a group of Representatives and Senators to iron out the differences.

Unfortunately both chambers include costly tax cuts and changes that mostly benefit big corporations and amount to a $650 million loss of revenue over the next two years under the House proposal, and a whopping $1 billion loss of revenue in the Senate’s plan. This is a false choice. A better choice would be to strip the final budget of any additional tax cuts when our public structures are in desperate need of reinvestment.

Contact Governor McCrory, legislative leadership and the conferees TODAY as they finalize their budget proposal. Let them know that North Carolina needs to reset the fiscal debate: stop the tax cuts and make needed investments in the pillars of economic strength like our early education, public K-12 education system, community colleges, higher education, transportation and other infrastructure.

Now is the time to set a new course, not double down on the previous tax changes that are hurting working families and costing us all far more than expected. Take action and share what #MyNCBudget invests in on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

QUALITY PAY FOR CAREGIVERS: Low wages threaten quality, consistency

As North Carolina rapidly ages, home care jobs are one of the fastest growing occupations. But these jobs offer some of the lowest wages in the state. Not only do low wages for caregivers increase worker turnover and increase long-run costs for providers, they also threaten the quality of in-home healthcare services for seniors.

The aging of the state’s baby boomers will correspond with an additional increase in community members with functional and cognitive limitations, indicating a growing need for direct care that allows community members to continue to live with dignity. Despite the growing demand, half of all home healthcare workers aren’t earning enough to rise above the federal poverty line despite working full-time. Despite the high occupational injury rates, almost half of home care workers remain uninsured and most have no earned paid sick days.

Recent cuts to the Medicaid reimbursement rate for caregiving have also contributed to falling caregiver wages. Reimbursement by Medicaid programs, in large part, creates the framework in which employers set wages for direct care workers. North Carolina’s reimbursement rates have been frozen or reduced since 2009. To address these challenges North Carolina must raise the wage floor for paid caregivers in the context of the state’s Medicaid program and look to best practices that tie wage-improvement strategies to reimbursement rates.
Quality wages for caregivers means quality care for seniors. It’s time for North Carolina to take hard look at how Medicaid reimburses provider agencies for the care provided to seniors and explore how those reimbursements can be improved to provide workers with quality wages.

DISCRIMINATORY POLICING: Tell lawmakers to support anti-profiling bill

Discriminatory policing is at odds with our shared values of fairness and justice. It can take place when law enforcement officers target individuals for humiliating detentions, interrogations, and searches without evidence of criminal activity based on their real or perceived  race, ethnicity, religion, nationality or sexual orientation. Profiling is not only a violation of the U.S. Constitution, it is also an ineffective law enforcement tool that wastes police officers' time and taxpayer dollars. It is a longstanding and troubling nationwide problem, including here in North Carolina.

You can help address how police treat all of our neighbors by telling North Carolina lawmakers today that you support the Prohibition of Discriminatory Profiling bill (HB 193). Among many significant changes, this bill would develop police oversight and transparency; create standardized local and state police, sheriff deputy and correction officer training on race equity, LGBTQ equity, religious freedom and domestic violence prevention; organize data collection tweaks to current law to gather true homicide by police data as endorsed by the Department of Justice; and address problems with local law enforcement of immigration.

Unfortunately, the NC General Assembly has ignored appeals to have H193 heard in the House Judiciary Committee. TAKE ACTION TODAY by calling or writing directly to Rep. Leo Daughtry, Chairman of the NC House Judiciary I Committee. Call (919) 733-5605 or email, or use this form.

VOUCHER RULING: NC Supreme Court upholds school voucher program

Last Thursday was a sad day for any North Carolinian who cares about public education. The North Carolina Supreme Court's decision to uphold the state's school voucher program disregarded the plain language of our state Constitution, which provides that public funds for education must be used “exclusively” to support the public schools. A voucher scheme that lacks standards and accountability will be allowed to continue draining funds from our public schools, harming students across our state and undermining the foundation of North Carolina’s prosperity.

Risky voucher schemes like the current law will not require schools to have qualified teachers or a standard curriculum, and allow publicly funded private schools to discriminate against students on the basis of income, disability or religion. Schools that receive vouchers have no accountability for student learning and achievement.

Allowing public funds to go to private schools will directly harm our already underfunded schools – and the children of North Carolina who rely on them.

WAGE WEEK: As communities mobilize, it's time for leaders to raise the wage

Across the country, advocates, workers and business leaders joined together for #WageWeek to call for wage standards that can boost the economy and ensure that working families can make ends meet.

More than 80 percent of new jobs created since 2009 don’t pay workers enough to cover life’s necessities, including housing, healthcare, groceries and gas, despite working full time. Raising the minimum wage – and indexing it to keep up with rising costs – is critical to ensuring that all workers can afford the basics, now and into the future. Boosting the wage floor to just $10 an hour would impact approximately 1 million workers in North Carolina, putting more money in the pockets of workers and strengthening the state’s economy.

Local communities across North Carolina are already pursuing creative strategies to encourage employers to raise the wage, whether through campaigns to ensure that local government employees receive a living wage and efforts to ensure that all economic development incentive deals require employers to pay a living wage. On July 22, fast food workers scored their biggest win to date as the New York State Wage Board raised wages for all fast food workers there to $15/hour.

The Fight for 15 is coming to several new North Carolina communities this month, including Charlotte and Greensboro. This year's mayoral race promises to be one of the most competitive in the history of Charlotte, which recently earned the distinction out of the 50 largest cities in the country as having some of the most deep, intractable poverty and as being one of the most difficult for children born into poverty. Join the Fight for 15 movement for a forum on Tuesday, August 18, with the mayoral candidates to hear where they stand on living wages. The event will be held at 6pm at the Double Oaks Community Center, 1326 Prince Hall Avenue. Low wage workers will have the opportunity to directly address the candidates about their commitment to raising wages for workers in Charlotte.

Even as we celebrate the work of local living wage campaigns, we need to lift up the importance of raising the wage in the General Assembly, where a number of bills await action that would raise the state’s minimum wage and index it to inflation. It’s time for policymakers at the state and local level to raise the wage.

Research & Publications: