I see the Mayor is getting out his signs again this year. This is a welcome sight because he deserves another term for...

Senate budget is the anti-spending plan

State Of The State North Carolina-3

Flanked by Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, left, and House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate Leader Phil Berger, right, Gov. Roy Cooper delivers the biennial State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly in Raleigh in February.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

A state budget is a spending plan, but the proposal the state Senate’s Republican majority presented Tuesday is better described as an anti-spending plan. It is an unalloyed version of Senate leader Phil Berger’s iron-rule of government: Cut taxes and spend the absolute minimum. If there’s any cash left over, stuff it into a reserve fund and call it prudence.

The total proposed two-year Senate budget comes in at $23.9 billion, almost comically teetering on the dreaded edge of $24 billion, a line the frugal senators could not be brought to cross. By contrast, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposed budget calls for $25.2 billion in state spending with no new taxes. The NC Budget & Tax Center estimates that if state spending was at the 45-year average level — about 6 percent of the state’s economy — the state budget would now be about $29 billion.

For Berger, those differences are simply the gap between Democrats freely spending other peoples’ money and his disciplined approach of spending the least possible in order to cut taxes. At a Tuesday news conference at the Legislative Building, Berger stood flanked by his caucus members and declared that, “This budget continues the policies that brought about our North Carolina success story.”

But the proposed budget testifies against that sweeping claim. If austerity and tax cuts are driving North Carolina’s success, why does the budget call for boosting teacher pay by 3.5 percent over two years? It’s because the reality has become undeniable — especially with an election year coming: North Carolina’s teachers have been underpaid since Republicans took control of the General Assembly in 2011. (The governor’s budget calls for a pay raise of 9.1 percent over two years.)

Why do Senate Republicans now want to give teachers $300 a year for school supplies and spend another $12 million on textbooks and digital resources? It’s because teachers have been outfitting their classrooms at their own expense and schools have been lacking for textbooks and other basic resources.

Why is there a sudden boost in pay for state corrections officers? Because the state prisons have been chronically underfunded. Some have officer vacancy rates of over 20 percent and officers are required to work overtime to fill the gap.

Why does the Senate proposal ask for a 5 percent pay raise for state employees over the next two years? It’s because the legislature paid for its past tax cuts in part by allowing state pay to lose ground to inflation.

Why would the Senate budget allot $4.5 million to recruit medical doctors, dentists and nurses to rural areas and $15 million to expand broadband in rural areas? It’s because the much of rural North Carolina is not sharing in the “North Carolina success story.” The state’s urban-rural divide is growing under policies that stress tax cuts over investment in economic development.

The most significant aspect of the Senate Republicans’ budget is what it lacks: funding to expand Medicaid. Thirty-seven other states have seen the value of accepting billions of federal dollars to expand Medicaid. In North Carolina expansion could create an estimated 40,000 jobs and provide health insurance for 500,000 people.

The governor will likely veto any budget bill that lacks Medicaid expansion. Then the haggling will begin. But the Senate’s opening bid suggests North Carolina will face another year of getting less than it needs. But such a condition, by the Senate Republicans’ reckoning, is the price of success.

The News & Observer of Raleigh


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


September 15, 2019

It was daytime when the first bands of Hurricane Floyd began lashing eastern North Carolina and the Greenville area on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 1999, 20 years ago today.

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August 18, 2019

A nearly unanimous vote by the Greenville City Council this month to annex nearly 400 acres well outside the city limits raises questions about the rights of rural residents and the city’s direction when it comes to managing growth.

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August 09, 2019

The Trump administration is considering a draft regulation to lower drug prices. North Carolinians have little reason to celebrate.

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July 28, 2019

Everyone embroiled in the debate over the State Health Plan should be working toward the same thing: the best health care for the lowest cost for the people of North Carolina.

Unfortunately, disagreement over how to do that escalated into a feud and now has plummeted into a childlike spat.


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July 21, 2019

“Send her back!”

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July 04, 2019

As the story goes, our Founding Fathers declared their independence from their mother country 243 years ago today, that the “united colonies are, and of right, ought to be free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown.”

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June 10, 2019

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June 08, 2019

Keith Cox served the residents of Virginia Beach in the public utilities department for 12 years.

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June 04, 2019

Give Harry Smith credit for being willing to do his homework and change his mind.

Smith, the usually outspoken and politically conservative chairman of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors, emerged from a recent board meeting and told reporters that his thinking about what to do…

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June 03, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence came to Charlotte this week for a 2020 Republican National Convention kickoff event. The visit was a reminder of the discomfort many feel in this progressive city about the 2020 RNC — an uneasiness so deep that Mayor Vi Lyles said last summer that she wouldn’t…

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