State Budget Still in Flux at a Cost of Millions to Taxpayers
GREENSBORO, N.C. - North Carolina lawmakers have missed the deadline to pass a budget by eight weeks. According to published reports, it costs the state an extra $42,000 for every day the Legislature meets and there is still no firm budget in place for the next fiscal year.
Logan Smith, communications director at Progress NC Action, says based on those figures, the state has spent more than $1.3 million as a result of the missed deadline, while state agencies live in limbo.
"Every agency, every program in the state, that is paid for by the state is really having to make decisions about their new fiscal year budget based on, right now, guesswork," says Smith.
As of now, state House and Senate leaders have agreed to a budget that keeps state spending at 2010 levels, when unemployment was high and the Great Recession was still impacting the economy. Many Republican lawmakers argue the tight budget is a way to reduce waste and increase productivity with available resources.
As a result, it's unlikely state employees will receive raises and teacher pay will remain at the bottom nationally. Thousands of teacher assistants such as Melinda Zarate, spokesperson with the North Carolina Association of Teacher Assistants, could lose their jobs.
"Public education should be the priority in North Carolina," says Zarate. "That shouldn't be the last thing the legislators look at to fund, that should be, 'Let's fully fund public education, and then we'll see what's left over to work with.'"
Many school districts are unsure of how to budget for the coming year as students return to school since they are unclear about what money will be coming from the state. Smith says lawmakers should practice the principles being taught in North Carolina's schools.
"If a student habitually turns in work late, if they go eight weeks without turning in an assignment, they're going to get an F," he says. "But for lawmakers, there's no accountability."
Smith points out this is the longest budget delay in at least 13 years and it comes after lawmakers took a week-long vacation after missing their July first deadline.