The Follies

The Follies

- in Fitzsimon File

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Another budget deadline missed and bad news for teachers and state employees

The state budget is now 59 days late. That makes it the second latest two-year state budget since at least 1961 and probably ever. And this from Republicans leaders who promised to make government more efficient and transparent.

The House and Senate passed another continuing resolution this week that keeps government operating until September 18. The latest resolution comes amid speculation that House and Senate budget leaders are closing in a final agreement on a two-year spending plan. This week the two sides announced they had settled the issue of raises for teachers and state employees.

Most of them will not get a salary increase and will instead receive a one-time $750 bonus towards the end of the year. Legislative leaders have not decided on any cost of living increase for state retirees and it’s hard to be optimistic they will come up with the money for one.

Budget subcommittees also received their spending targets, almost all of which were lower than the original House budget which itself made inadequate investments, particularly in education and human services.

Now presumably the subcommittees will begin ironing out the details of a final agreement with major questions remaining, including funding for teacher assistants and teachers. The Senate budget cuts 8,500 teachers over the next two years and uses some of the money saved to hire more teachers to reduce class size in the early grades.

The House would leave TA funding the same, though it’s been cut dramatically in the last few years. And the funding that is at stake is for the school year that started Monday, leaving local officials and thousands of teacher assistants wondering about their jobs.

It’s also hardly a forgone conclusion that the agreement on the non raise and other target numbers means lawmakers will pass a final budget by the new deadline. The two sides have dozens of budget items in dispute big and small, maybe the most contentious of which will be tax changes.

Both budgets include another decrease in the corporate income tax rate but Senate leaders want to reduce the personal income tax rate too. That might hold up a final budget. There are changes in Medicaid, local sales tax distribution, and Governor Pat McCrory’s bond proposal. None of those are in the budget document at this point, but Senate leaders said this week that they are all still connected.

If the General Assembly fails to pass a budget by the new September 18th deadline and takes another week, it would be the latest a two-year budget has passed in modern history. And don’t be against it.

There’s a reasonable chance that a budget deal is coming soon, but there is still a lot of animosity between the House and Senate that will make it a challenge to wrap things up.

Meanwhile teachers, teacher assistants, students and parents wait and worry.

Bad news for McCrory in right-wing poll

The rough summer for Governor Pat McCrory continues. Not only do lawmakers still seem lukewarm about his top priorities for this legislative session, a poll from a right-wing group generally supportive of McCrory shows him trailing Attorney General Roy Cooper, his likely 2016 opponent, among independent voters.

The Civitas Institute, where McCrory’s Chief of Staff Thomas Stith used to work, issued a press release Friday morning with a headline downplaying the findings.

“Civitas Poll Shows McCrory Support Shifts in Key Voting Bloc” was how it was billed and what the poll apparently found was that McCrory now trails Cooper among unaffiliated voters 34-32 percent. McCrory was the choice of 44 percent of unaffiliated voters in a June Civitas survey.

You would think that might be the headline of the release, “Cooper pulls ahead of McCrory with unaffiliated voters,” but that probably wouldn’t sit too well with the McCrory camp.

The poll also found that 50 percent of unaffiliated voters in the state approve of the job President Obama is doing while 48 percent disapprove.

Forty-six percent of the voters surveyed have a favorable opinion of Obama and 44 percent have an unfavorable view of him while only 36 percent of voters view McCrory favorably while 43 percent have an unfavorable opinion.

So not only McCrory is losing to Cooper among the all-important unaffiliated voters, he is significantly less popular with them than Obama who’s still bitterly attacked every day by groups like Civitas.

A tough summer indeed.

Another week and the Confederate flag is still flying on North Carolina license plates

And in case you are wondering, the State of North Carolina is still selling license plates that feature the offensive confederate flag, now more two months after Gov. Pat McCrory said in the wake of the Charleston shootings that the state should stop selling them.

Maybe those unaffiliated voters are looking for governor who takes decisive action, not someone who makes a statement and doesn’t follow up on it.

From the Fringe

It has been a while since there’s been a From the Fringe segment of the Follies and this one is a doozy. It comes from George Leef who posted on the primary blog of the John Locke Foundation this week that Florida International University Law Professor Elizabeth Foley “nailed it” in her take on the horrific murder of two journalists at Roanoke television station.

Foley’s post that Leef was so taken by described the obviously troubled suspect who was a former employee of the station and shot himself after the murders, as “a sad but ineluctable product of the progressive left’s incessant race-baiting and claims of minority entitlement. He is, essentially, the love child of Al Sharpton and President Obama (with Elizabeth Warren as the surrogate).”

Lovely.