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Budgets are moral documents. Budgets tell us what communities, issues and people are most important to their authors.
Let’s place this budget in context. In the 2018 election, nearly 3.6 million votes were cast in gerrymandered districts across our state. The result was 50.5% of votes were cast to elect Democratic candidates. However, Democrats currently comprise 46% — 55 of 120 seats — in our state House.
Rule 26(b) of the N.C. House of Representatives requires the speaker to “establish committees that reflect the partisan membership of the House.” This rule was set aside and every committee was stacked with ex-officio voting members to ensure that Democrats would be incapable of gaining the required number of votes to amend bills or the budget.
This one action and the subsequent refusal to bring the budget override to vote ignores the will of the people who clearly stated they no longer wanted a veto-proof supermajority in Raleigh. This is not how democracy works.
Despite the rhetoric in the media, the Republican conference budget was not a bipartisan budget. Having sat, debated and voted in two of the nine appropriations committees, I witnessed firsthand the exclusion of Democrats from the process.
The result was that only Republican-friendly amendments passed committees, leaving us with a budget that reflected the priorities, communities and issues important to Republicans while ignoring the remainder of our state. You will hear examples of the good in the Republicans’ version of the budget, and for some communities, there is good. However, it comes short of moving our entire state forward. Our budget process should not be a document of winners and losers. We may be a state of rural, urban and suburban communities, but we are still one North Carolina.
I voted against this budget for the following reasons: it underfunds teachers, support personnel, UNC and community college employees and retiree cost-of-living adjustments; ignores 73% of state employees; does not provide for a bond to fund public school construction; underfunds pre-K and Smart Start; and provides a corporate tax cut that is unnecessary, while prohibiting us from meeting the single biggest need of companies — a trained workforce.
Independent of Medicaid expansion, this budget was justifiably vetoed and if given the opportunity, I will vote to sustain the governor’s veto.
The governor’s compromise budget proposal fixes much of what is wrong with the Republicans’ version of the budget, does not ignore those in our state with different priorities and opinions and does not spend additional taxpayer dollars.
But, then again, budgets are moral documents.
Rep. James Gailliard, D-Nash, represents N.C. House District 25, which includes northern and central Nash County. He is pastor of Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount.