WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE: Budget fallout

WAKE DEMS WEEKLY UPDATE, Vol. 1, No. 6

May 19, 2017
 

SENATE BUDGET

As many expected, there were a lot of hidden “gems” in the Senate budget which are still coming to light a week after passage. That is because it was rammed through under cover of darkness, only about 48 hours after being filed. It turns out the budget is no better in the light of day.

When a cut is not really a savings

One of the most egregious cuts in the Senate budget would throw over 133,000 poor families off food assistance, including about 51,345 children who will lose access to free and reduced lunch. In Wake County alone, this would affect 10,297 families and 4,617 children, according to the governor’s office. 36% of households with children, 28% of households with elderly citizens, and 23% of households including a person with a disability would have their access to food assistance taken away, according to NC Policy Watch.

Republicans voted to remove the “categorical eligibility” (CAT EL) option for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). CAT EL is a streamlined, cost-saving process that allows families to qualify for SNAP if they already are served by another low-income assistance program. Now families would be forced into a lengthier and more burdensome application process, with fewer families served and additional costs for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Indeed, this would save taxpayers absolutely no money, and may even cost them more. That is because while the state helps administer the program, the cost is borne entirely by the federal government--it is already paid for, just like Medicaid expansion would have been.

Just plain mean

We told you last week about Republicans’ 3 AM budget shenanigans. One amendment the Republicans proposed and passed at the last minute supposedly added funding for opioid treatment, but only in certain Republican members’ districts. And in order to balance those additional funds, the amendment stripped funding for various education programs in low-income areas of several African-American Democratic senators’ districts. The amendment also removed funding for the Healthy Corner Store Initiative in food deserts and for a position in the governor’s office that interfaces with the federal government (gee, that would be helpful in trying to convince President Trump to reverse his decision to stiff NC on its Hurricane Matthew aid request).

Many have taken this move as retribution for Democrats proposing budget amendments that extended debate into the wee hours, and it put our state in the national news for the wrong reasons, yet again. The Washington Post and other national outlets covered it.

Who would knowingly vote to remove food security from hard-working NC families and children and to gut education programs for mostly poor African-American kids as political payback? Wake County Senators Chad Barefoot and John Alexander voted for the above amendment and the final budget; Tamara Barringer voted for the second reading, but had a convenient excused absence to avoid voting on the amendment and final passage.

FINALLY, SOME GOOD NEWS

Voter ID No More

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Republicans’ appeal of a lower court’s ruling overturning NC’s voter suppression law. The law is now defunct. But GOP legislative leaders have already promised to introduce a new version of the law they think will withstand legal challenge. We will keep an eye on that.

Raise the Age

House Bill 280, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, passed the House this week by a vote of 104 to 8. Also known as the “Raise the Age” bill, it would move the prosecution of certain crimes committed by 16- and 17-year-olds to the juvenile courts. If the bill passes the Senate, NC will become the 50th state to make this change. Similar bills had been proposed in previous sessions, but this year, Republican Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin and 80-plus organizations on both sides of the aisle, including the conservative John Locke Foundation, the NC Chamber, various law enforcement associations, and several faith-based groups, joined the cause.

Wake’s own Rep. Duane Hall was a primary sponsor, and worked hard to get the bill through the House. All seven of Wake’s other House Democrats co-sponsored the bill. The Senate included a version of the bill in its budget, albeit not fully funded.

COMING NEXT WEEK

The House budget proposal will likely be released next Tuesday or Wednesday. We will have news on that in the next edition.