NC JUSTICE NEWS: State Budget Cuts + The Dangers of TABOR + Health Care for Farmworkers

March 22, 2011

STATE BUDGET: Legislative budget targets paint stark picture

As part of the process of creating a new two-year budget for North Carolina, leaders in the General Assembly develop budget targets for each legislative joint appropriations committee. The committee members aim for these targets as they create budget proposals for each department of state government.

This year’s targets make it clear that legislative leaders plan to use a cuts-only approach to balancing the budget, reports the Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center in a new brief. Legislators are planning for an $18.3 billion total budget for fiscal year 2012-13—$1.6 billion less than Governor Perdue’s budget. This budget would be an 8.4 percent reduction over the current year budget, making it the largest year-over-year percent reduction in total state spending in the last 30 years.

The impact to state programs and services of such large budget cuts would be unprecedented in modern North Carolina history.

UNWISE LEGISLATION: The disastrous potential of TABOR

They call it TABOR – Taxpayer Bill of Rights. But it should be BABOR – Bill Abolishing Basics of Responsibility.

A new study from the Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center looks out how the TABOR bill currently in the House Judiciary Committee would impact North Carolina’s public investments. The BTC finds the bill’s artificial limit on public investments would cripple the structures that will be essential for rebuilding North Carolina’s economy.

In short, TABOR limits growth in state spending to “population growth plus inflation.” But the experience of Colorado—which had TABOR for more than a decade before voters decided to stop it—shows that this approach to limiting spending is a failure. The formula results in deep budget cuts year after year after year. As a result, Colorado is now near the bottom of national lists regarding investments in public education, colleges and university, and health care.

TABOR would be a disaster for North Carolina, literally robbing its citizens of everything that makes this state great.

HEALTH REFORM: Making advocates, citizens part of the conversation

The legislation that creates the new health insurance marketplace for North Carolina will shape the state’s health care for years and impact every patient and every taxpayer. It is vitally important that North Carolina does this right and puts the rights of consumers first.

Citizens for Responsible Health Care, a coalition of consumer and health advocacy groups, has launched a new website that will track news and provide perspectives on the creation of the marketplace.

There is plenty of reason for concern about the process. At first, it looked like certain legislators were going to push through a bill that essentially would have turned the marketplace over to Blue Cross Blue Shield NC. Thankfully, the process has slowed down. Just yesterday, the House Health and Human Services Committee announced it would not hear that bill this week, as originally scheduled.

But legislators are still shutting health advocates out of the conversation. They're now crafting the language for the marketplace bill behind closed doors, but they won't let advocates have any part of the process. And that is a bad sign.

FARMWORKERS: Important healthcare program may be eliminated

Some of North Carolina’s most vulnerable workers and their children may face a new hurdle when they try to access medical care.

A budget proposal now before the state legislature would eliminate the Migrant Fee for Service Program, which provided specialty and dental care for more than 2200 farmworkers and their children last year. At around $200 per encounter, this is a cost-effective way of preventing emergency room visits and chronic health problems.

Of course, it would be great if the General Assembly would recognize that employers in agriculture (one of the state’s most hazardous industries) should be required to provide workers’ comp coverage to their workers just like everyone else. But until then—and until growers provide private health insurance—these uninsured workers need access to affordable treatment. Farmworkers and the entire state benefit from the Fee for Service Program.

CRUCIAL CONVERSATION: Luncheon on charter schools with Dr. Helen Ladd

The debate over charter schools in North Carolina is about much more than school choice and education innovation. There has been an effort in the General Assembly to use charter schools as a tool for taking money away from and undermining traditional schools. And while charter schools may foster innovation—whether they do is certainly debatable—they also encourage racial and economic segregation.

So what are the benefits and drawbacks of charter schools, and is expanding them a good idea? Join NC Policy Watch for a Crucial Conversation luncheon on charter schools on Wednesday, March 30 at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh. Dr. Helen Ladd, a Duke professor of economics and public policy who studies education policy worldwide, will be there to explain the implications of North Carolina’s charter schools law and the proposed changes. State Rep. Rick Glazier of Cumberland, one of the General Assembly’s most knowledgeable and thoughtful voices on public education, will also speak.

 

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