NC JUSTICE NEWS: VOTE TODAY + Defenders of Justice Awards on THURSDAY + Public Education Funding

May 8, 2012

AMENDMENT ONE: Cast your ballot TODAY

Early voting turnout in North Carolina set a record this year, but there are still millions of North Carolinians who have yet to cast their vote. Today voters will flock to the ballot boxes for the Republican and Democratic primaries, and to vote on the hottest issue on the ballot: Amendment One.

In addition to stipulating that marriage is only valid between a man and a woman, Amendment One would ban civil unions and strip rights for domestic partnerships and unmarried couples, regardless of their sexual orientation. If it passes, families could lose access to health care, and domestic violence protections for unmarried couples could be invalidated. Individuals and groups from both sides of the issue have come forward to support and stand against the amendment, including evangelical leader Billy Graham and the NC Council of Churches. Former President Bill Clinton and North Carolina’s family law professors have decried the Amendment for its effect on North Carolina’s reputation, the rights of its children, and the safety of women. Even Star Trek’s Mr. Sulu has asked voters to read about the potential ramifications of the amendment for unmarried couples.

It’s important for all North Carolinians to get out and vote today. Regardless of where one stands on this issue, Amendment One will affect all North Carolinians, so make your vote count. Polls close at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Click here to find the location of your polling place.

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE AWARDS: Only two days left!

Join the NC Justice Center in a celebration of some of North Carolina's most committed and effective progressive advocates. The Defenders of Justice Awards will be held this Thursday, May 10, 2012 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Bay 7 in the American Tobacco Campus, Durham. Purchase your ticket today!

The Justice Center presents its Defender of Justice Awards to honor individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions in the fight against poverty in four areas that reflect the scope of the Justice Center’s work. The 2012 honorees are:

LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY

  • State Representative Deborah Ross of Wake County for her dedication to increasing access to affordable housing and public transportation, protecting civil rights, and improving conditions for North Carolina's workers.
  • State Representative Larry Hall of Durham County for his commitment to protecting vulnerable families and members of the military from predatory lenders, safeguarding voting rights, and expanding opportunities for low-income individuals and communities throughout the state.

POLICY RESEARCH AND ADVOCACY

  • Disability Rights North Carolina for their research and advocacy efforts to uphold the fundamental rights of people with disabilities to live free from harm in the communities of their choice and with the opportunity to participate fully and equally in society.

LITIGATION

  • Mary Lee Hall of Legal Aid of NC’s Farmworker Unit for fighting to protect the rights and improve the well-being of the tens of thousands of migrant and seasonal farmworkers who work in North Carolina’s fields.

COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT

  • Reuben Blackwell of Rocky Mount for his tenacity in opening doors to opportunity, breaking down barriers, and standing up for the rights and well-being of the people of Rocky Mount and the state.

DEVIL IN THE DETAILS: Continuation budget cuts for 2012-13

Lawmakers in Raleigh will soon be putting together what’s called their continuation budget for fiscal year 2012-2013, where they make adjustments to the second year of the state budget that was passed last spring. At the time, members of the General Assembly took a cuts-only approach to the budget, resulting in additional pressure being placed on local government and devastation for working families and businesses.

The Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center, recently put together facts on the budget considerations that may be of use to lawmakers – and can also show every day North Carolinians how slight changes in the budget can have huge effects on our state’s residents.

The latest in its series “The Devil’s in the Details” – a review of budget cuts and revenue options that would help preserve public investments – offers a variety of alternative cuts, such as ending multi-state corporations being able to shelter profits from the state corporate income tax instead of cutting funding for key school personnel and transportation. Rather than cutting the state’s nationally-recognized NC Pre-K and early childhood education program Smart Start, why not maintain the 2 percent personal income tax surcharge on households that have joint taxable income between $100,000 and $250,000? The BTC’s alternatives offer a total of $1.06 billion in revenue in the state – instead of $1.13 billion in cuts that may result from our lawmaker’s potential budget.

PUBLIC EDUCATION: Recovery funds run out soon

Public education will soon have to depend far more on state government for support. All federal recovery funds supporting public education through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in North Carolina will soon run out, creating a looming budget gap for public schools across the state. According to a new report from the Budget & Tax Center, a larger share of the responsibility for funding public education will have to shift back to the state government in order to fairly and adequately serve North Carolina’s growing K-12 student population.

Since 2009, policymakers have been able to use federal funds from ARRA to support public education as state and local revenue collections plummeted in the wake of the Great Recession. Except for approximately $255 million in federal Education Jobs money, all of the ARRA funding had been spent by the end of fiscal year 2010-11. The BTC report found that 92 percent of all funds available – a total of $1.47 billion – was used to pay public school salaries and benefits, including salaries and benefits for thousands of teachers. Despite this important role, personnel at North Carolina’s public schools have been reduced significantly since the start of the Great Recession, suggesting that federal recovery money and measures to raise temporary taxes fell short of adequately funding public education.

Now it’s time for lawmakers to increase state funding to education in the upcoming budget year and beyond in order to continue the state’s investment in the education and development of our future workforce.

 

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