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Senate | September 10, 2015 | Press Room | Press Conference: Rep. Hall

Full MP3 Audio File

We are a little bit earlier but I'm going to go ahead and start, I usually try to stay on schedule so we can accommodate everyone one who's either trying to listen in or cover this, but representative Larry Halland the Democratic leader in the house of representatives I have with me members of the house democratic is one of our newest member, Billy Richardson and we certainly want to welcome him and introduce him to those of you all who do not know him. Representative Garlem Piers, Representative Susan and Representative Lawry Ensco  and we're here to talk about few issues specifically pertaining to the budget as well as what's happening in North Carolina as we supposedly move toward a budget deal whatever that may be, our concerns continue you to grow not about what traditional budget item should be but about the process we now have which apparently maybe three or four people. Certainly not the press, certainly not the ranking file, certainly not the help Democratic hawkers in the senate, democratic hawkers are not aware of the specific detail and where we're going with this as well as deals and being or considerations are being given in this budget process. I would submit to you based of what you've heard in the last few weeks that one minute we have a deal on teacher assistants then we don't, then it's a restricted spending deal then it's not, then it driver's hit then it's not, then it's a teacher pay-raise, then it's not, then it's a bonus, then it's not, then it's a continuing resolution, then it is another continuing resolution, then it's going to be in the budget, ti's not going to be in the budget. It's going to be actual substitute law changes in the budget versus responding, there's going to be pulsy change in the and they are not going to be their general agreements that we will not have policy changes and budget and they show up and they can be told towards what they are so we can have adequate time to vet them, they don't get to stand a long bill hearing as they should, and so that leaves us in the state of Limbo as well as totally behind schedule. on what we need to do, we have already savaged our school systems by keeping them in this nimble of not knowing whether they can hire their teacher assistance and if so for how long are they temporally employees for a day, a week, a month, a semester and we are still at that point right now its my understanding there is still has been a final agreement on how these funding is going to be allowed and how that can be spend by the local system so they are still in that position. At a time when our country thinking about September 11 tomorrow and we should be thinking about what is happening with our precious founders and the great work that our public sector employees have done, we're now here at a time hearing about a scheme of put now in this legislature. There can be a major your policy change that some people say maybe in the budget some people say may not and we understand it you all know what the record is for accuracy around here on people's guarantee and you also know what the record currently is about transparency regarding what's happening with this budget and this budget process. So we've continually called for a transparency time after time and that is not available. So we are forced to ask these questions and as well many of you are doingT This move that we understand is a foot whether it's in the budget or whether it's going to be done separately but we without the proper vetting procedure is one there's a major policy shift in North Carolina. And that's the question of whether or not we're going to change our defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan and turn upside down the state of North Carolina and our public workers in it and employees. And you might say well sounds like is a good idea to someone. Well if you examine the facts it's not a good idea. It's not a good idea to do policy this way, it's not a good idea to bring this idea up at the end of a session and it certainly won't be a good idea to up a major policy decision like this in the budget with whether it's in as a phased in Plan or whether it's in as an actual, on-time, he had been here in North Carolina. It will certainly turn our budget upside down for years to come and certainly change our state as far as its funds as far as this fund as  far as house as members in our workforce work in the day of dedication to the state and our ability to attract talent to the state of North Carolina. This Retirement Fund is one of the greatest assets because of its stability and performance in the United States. It's the second highest funded Pension Plan in the United States it's got

900, 000 active or retired members. So you're talking about a 12th of North Carolina's population is affected by the decision, so that's why I'm here today because it is that important so when you talk about screwing with this Retirement Fund, you're talking about at least 1/12 of North Carolina adult citizen is being affected. It's got one of the best affordability ratings in the United States and the biggest thing is that pays out $4.5 billion into the economy in the state of North Carolina, this plan that people are talking about changing without public vetting is putting that amount of money back into our communities and giving it to our state workers who've worked at 20 years or more and have contributed to the systems on that basis and so we've done three weeks on studies, those studies since 2010 have all said, got a great system, does well, National Study say we've done well, I think we got a hand out that you might have  from August 21st of press release from the Treasurers office that has the fact of the great performance of the state Retirement System and so why is it that you're hearing this from me now? And why is this something that's being considered and now people are saying, well, we're talking about it or we're not talking about it we're going to do it or we're going to do it only based in a small group of people in this legislature or deciding, without informing the vast majority of members that this is being considered and may be attempted. Now all of us have a responsibility to our citizens and this is not acceptable to effect that many North Carolinians to affect that much money that goes back into our economy based on the work of these people over their lifetime. And so whoever these members are of these, and I call it a secret society because apparently they have this secret meetings and the secret efforts but no one knows about. I don't think anyone has had a press conference that you are all aware of to say we're concerned this, I don't think there's been a plan put forward this session for you all  to examine and talk about and so this is something that can not and should not be budget I would hope it will not be and I will caution people not to try to do that. It will affect our first responders, it's going to affect our fire fighters, our highway teachers, our maintenance workers, everyone you can think of whether they work for a city, a county, a sheriff department, a police department is going to be affected by this, and this is nothing that should be done in a slighter hand in a four or five day period. So I want to make sure you understand how much we will be opposed to this happening in this manner and how much we think it will be a violation of the trust of the people of North Carolina. Now Change of undefined benefit to a define contribution plan means what? It means the're no guarantee, there's no risk management by profession money managers as we have now, and you don't have the comfort of knowing you were an assistant for 70 years as delivered for North Carolina and then wanted a great assistant in the United States, one of the greatest things we've done in North Carolina and has provided this level of retirement funding for our state employees. If this happens without the involvement of full legislature, then everyone in North Carolina looses, retired workers current workers, their families, their communities and there' no way you come up with any idea of says this is a plan that benefits North Carolina, might benefit some day traders, it may benefit some stock traders who trade on volume or get paid based on the number of trays the do to move your money around if you get in a four one K plan will not benefit that's one twelfth of North Carolinians, those 900, 000 people are in it, if only damaging them in their future, so it's a bad deal deal for the North Carolina, it's bad deal for the tax payers, it's a bad deal for the communities and I wanted to make sure that issue was brought to your attention so you can do your duties which I submit has not been done on this issue even though it's being considered by whoever these members are of this secret society here at the legislator, whoever they are they haven't brought it upfront and have it vivid like we're supposed to do in the legislator so it's a bad deal for our teachers, it's a bad deal for a law enforcement, it's a bad deal for our first respondents in emergency workers, it's a bad deal for all our the citizens is a bad deal in the State of North Carolina and is a bad deal for at least 900, 000 people who are in the system now as actionable retirees and then everyone forward after that it will be a

bad deal breaker for them, so it's really what we will call a deal breaker. So I hope it's not in the budget and I hope whoever these members are of the privileged secret society, I don't know if they have a secret handshake, I'm not sure how they greet each other and what the tenants are of this that they will keep a secret from -North Carolina and from North Carolinians but I hope they will considered the idea of even doing this long, extra long session. We're going to deal with the issue of medic aid, I'll take questions on this and then we're going to come back deal with medic aid expansion. I'll start here. Yes sir. You mentioned how unless you did know about this and actually probably I've heard some of the things you did and ask specifically speaker more Senator Apodaca whether this was something going to be in the session, whether it's something under consideration for the short session, a couple of people said this is not something that's going on. Where where is this coming from? Have you been told specifically by the Governor, by the Speaker or by somebody else or do you have a bug in the school of society there? Where is it this coming from that you feel strongly enough that you're willing to put your name to saying this is going on?  I feel strongly enough from talking to other members and hearing form other folks on staff that this is going on number one, number two I would certainly have not seen your interviews or whatever but if it's absolutely not happening it should be clear from the statements of the folks in leadership you talk to that, it's absolutely not happening. Not that it wasn't intended, not that we don't think we're going to do it. It should be an absolute denial and refusal and a pledge that is going to be done through the proper vetting procedure and in accordance with studies and facts that will dictate what we're going to do going forward. So it should not be a whisper as well, I can't talk about that now. It should not be, well we don't think it's going to be in the budget or it's wasn't either in the House also the Senate budget that came, I specifically asked the question today, was there going to be Policy change in the budget? And the statement was, yes, there would be policy changes in the budget. Now, we had a general agreement that would not happen and that was one of the initial problems with the negotiations to start with, that was too much policy being put in the budget from the Senate side and that we didn't want that. We wanted a straight up and down budget, vote policy issues, let them stand on their own and be voted and even in the you call this, I don't speak for them, I was invited to join but they didn't tell me what it would cost so I declined the offer today. But until that happens I don't feel comfortable that the other information I have is not corrected. It has been considered and discussed, and I certainly don't feel comfortable because no specific denial has been given as far as I've heard. Now again I haven't been at y'all's interviews. Whoever had has talked and asked the questions. So just in the spirit of transparency and clarity you're asking for, have you talked to the Governor's office about this at all? I personalty have not talked to the Governor's office . And have you talked to the Speakers office though? I personally have not talked to the Speakers office. So, has somebody else here focused the rule, I mean that seems a little bit on the evasiveness of your, worried about here. Well, no, let me make it appropriately clear, I'm not the Speaker of the House. I do not have the authority of a super majority to give you that assurance. If I were, I would give it to you. I wouldn't have to be evasive and I wouldn't have to worry about anything so if I had that position I would tell you, we're not going to screw with the Retirement Plan of 900, 000 house of North Carolinians and 1/12th of our population and $4.5 million going to our community, I would tell you that, I would clearly tell you that. So, who is telling you do this going on.? I've had members who have told me these questions are coming up and staff members who have told me these questions are coming up. So you've been told by Republicans first this is happening and the caucus knew that they're talking about this issue? No, I did not say that, I think you're reporting something and other members have been told that. I personally, and I want to be clear, I personally was not told that so members of our caucus have heard that. Yes, sir, I'm coming to you next, yes sir. Well, I want to pursue this a little bit further described. I think we're all interested in it. And just in the spirit of transparency we're talking about, we don't want read court rumors and right now we're not hearing from you in concrete idea that this is going to happen and your concern is the process. We get that. So Representative Insko before I pursue the question I had in mind I would like to hear from you now if you would. I understand that I should be asked something  from here. And as she comes I want

to do one thing, I would ask that we get the same level of coverage and consideration that the folks that told you we would have the budget by budget time and then told you we would have a budget by the first CR and told you will have the budget by the second CR, I would ask that we read the same coverage of out concern, so because we can't specifically report it as a I think it's going to happen, I think it's relevant that we have these concerns and that we've had these items at foot. So we don't want to wait til after it's over and then get to ask the question why didn't you do something about it before it happens? We're telling you and we're telling the public now these are concerns we think the we found it and we should have some clarity for that's why we're here to for that and ask for your assistance and get that. So what I understand is that the issue did come up, the issue was discussed, whether it's currently still an issue or not, I don't know. I heard today that it was an issue that had been discussed. And you have that? can you tell us who you heard that from?   It was from one of the negotiators. I don't know if, but these are cards that I'm already receiving from back home my county I represent, so it's obvious that the public is made aware of how they'll get that information, I have no idea but this occurs you can read if you want to, form people, educators and retirees and state workers who have already sort to send out cars so somebody knows about it. I don't know how to get to them but I have in my possession. What are those cards? They're talking about please support maintaining the defined benefit plan. So these are from citizens already sent these cards to us. They were mailed to you?   Yes sir I have them in my possession if you'd like to see?   Thank you. On a slightly different topic, I understand that one of the items that they are still discussing and they haven't come to agreement on yet is the finance package, and of course we're hearing that, you're smiling, we're hearing that there's going to be at least probably a minimum of $110 million tax cut to upset some higher fees in the DMD. The House budget didn't really cut taxes, did it? And what is you're position on giving this revenue back? We are currently operating at a revenue deficit. We're already given tax cuts and one of the problems we continue to say we have is we don't have enough money to do the things we're constitutionally required to do. To provide a sound basic education and pay the teachers which is implicit in order to do that. But yet, Ms. Steel, we're saying we're going to find other ways to give funds away that we don't have. We never hear that excuse when it time for a tax cut, that we don't have money for this tax cut. We if the economy is improving, rather than reinvesting in our communities and in our future, we're going to give tax cuts to people to take the money out of state and invested otherwise. So I don't think that the House should move off of that position, that we should not allow those if we can't afford to pay for the responsibilities we currently have and if we have to stay longer to do that than we have been, then that's what takes. I understand form the speaker that over the last two or three days since he and Senator Berger have been meeting things have seemingly, great progress as they made et cetera and some of them may ask the question but why didn't they meet three months ago? I don't know, but maybe that will be a new para-dining and doing budget negotiations, so I hope that answers your question. Yes sir. Following up on her question your shifting the revenue source from taxes to DMV fees, is there anything you guys are concerned about opening  of getting revenue from DMV versus from the income tax system? Well if you shifted the DMV fees, it's the same as shifting it to court fees. It has a effect and it's pretty clear that what is happening, even if it happened in this a benefit plan change has been discussed. It's going to be shifting the tax burden to those who can least afford it and those who are in moderate and lower income categories and so it has a regressive effect. It should not be done. It's been done excessively over the last few cycles in court fees and other fees and it really is indicative of the trends that's happening and we need to stop that. One last question on the and you're concerned about the change over in the benefits.  Wait I want to respond with curing. Okay. Yeah, go ahead. Go ahead with your question and we'll come back to that real quick please. The question is this, and not knowing anything beyond what you've said essentially, if we go ask the question and somebody says that we're talking about that or get that

answer and they said but it's only for future employees can you at least respond to the notion, if that's the case and they talk about improtrution employees, everything you talked about has been affecting 900, 000 thousand North Carolinians if that were the change and I want to say [xx] moving forward for our future employees, would that disqualify some of the comments you've made about [xx]. It won't disqualify the comments that I make. Again and again this is very much similar to the education system. We have an education system because people have been willing to sacrifice and pay in so succeeding generations can benefit. This pension system we have in place allows us to get good state employees to have this increase spending in our communities. To allow people not to live in poverty after they put in 20 or 30 years in work, and increase the living standards of people in our State. So to go through that contribution plan for employees would be coming in We would be cutting off our future because that 4.5 billion I talked about would not be coming in. That quality of life for our retired employees etc. will be ceasing over time and all the benefits to communities that are happening because of this system that have been in place for 70 years and have been working will gradually diminish and they have no plan, and have given you no plan this is. Here's how we're going to compensate for and change this, and it given another tax cut is not going to be the answer, and expecting [xx] managers and folks of that ilk to be the ones who are going to come save North Carolina in our future here in our communities that won't be answer either. Yes Sir. You're going to take the Speaker up, seems like an honest offer to come speak to your caucus on progress, Senator. I'm going to take him up on Well first of all he has been and talked to our cus this session already. So I need to make sure that's clear so if anybody think that's a history thing, that's not a history thing. He's been and spoken to our caucus and we've had Republican Representatives come in and speak to our caucus about development and certain deals and issues. So that is something that we'll certainly take a mop on, and it's the same thing to happen with the governor if you come to talk to us, we're going to both expect you to tell us what you think is and then answer the questions that we have about things that we think are important. We don't need a publicity stunt. We need information so we can represent our constituents, so I'll certainly take him up on it. We don't have a budget now, I'm not going to be in favor of him coming in the door with the budget in his hands, still hot off the presses, and then we can't ask the legitimate questions about how certain things work or how they'll be done so we don't want to be a publicity prop or stunt, we want to be a part in the process and we'll be glad to do that. We've done it in the past, we'll do again. I want to talk about Medicare, you want to talk, Billy Ribson has a comment. Billy get in here I know members from Davill North Carolina [x]] with him, he's got a great history in the legislature and we're looking forward to great service from him going forward. Mr. Lee I apologize, I know being the new guy I shouldn't be speaking, but the reason I am you asked a very good question about tax cuts. Why in the world, if we're going to do that, we have chambers of commerce throughout this state begging pleading with leadership to put back the historic tax credit down town organization. My community, favor North Carolina is has lived under the term Vietnam forever and it's unfair because if you go our down town now and see what that historic tax credit has help to produce, we have this beautiful down town now. My chambers has written me and written to our entire delegation and begged us to please put back that downtown tax credit so if we're going to do tax relief let's do intelligence tax relief. Let's put back the historic tax credit that the communities can grow and prosper. This puts back the small business tax credit that was taken out, so the small business, the people that have less than 20 employees which is drive the economy of the state can have some relief. If we're going to do that let's do what our local governments in our chambers are asking us to do. And I will challenge our Speaker, and I would challenge the leadership of the Senate, and I would challenge the governor to put those two tax credits back. If they are going to talk tax credits then talk. That's what people want, let's give it to them. I just want to take one second to further punctuate the whole define benefit question. You've seen already where the schools are having more trouble than ever before hiring teachers and the reason for that is they are having to go to other counties in the state

to hire teachers to the school instead of going out of state because out of state teachers know that North Carolina is not a great place to do business. If they are not going to get the salary they can get else where and now it's a possibility they won't get the same benefits that they can get else where and so that I think further punctuates the fact that what this does is make North Carolina vulnerable for the future. So I just want to punctuate that a little bit, thank you. And I think all this members will be available after the press conference, I want to be respectable of your time and want to talk about one item that has clearly been on the front banner when we talk about the North Carolina economic condition and that's the question of Medicaid reforms for expansion in North Carolina or doing both and as we talk about what North Carolina is suffering, what we are loosing and we're talking about a budget and what we can and can't afford to do. We have the opportunity to expand medic aid North Carolina and the communities they are most in need of development and support are the once who would benefit largely from it. So we have continued to deny the opportunity to do it even if we have wanted the best performance systems in the United States and what happens to our local and rural areas especially for delivery of healthcare is a shame to happen in North Carolina, now I come from what they call a city of medicine, Durham, North Carolina we got Duke university medical system headquarter there and all kinds of facilities, people come from all over the world to get treatment there, but there are hospitals in rural North Carolina and I got to an email yesterday from one of them and then there's one that's been really the poster-child of the devastation this policy has created here in North Carolina, so I have Bob Zelner here with me who is part of the group that is trying to read out the bill Haven hospital and they have marched to DC twice you might be familiar with them, but the amount of money and tax revenue that will be generated as a result of having medic aid expansion in North Carolina. We continue to live on the table and we continue to say we don't have the funds to give our citizens quality of life they deserve. So Bob Zellner is here, he come up off the march, they're now matching from Belhaven to Raleigh, and he is here as one of the members of that group, he's been walking for more than two years to try get Belhaven hospital that global philosophy. Bob is up   Thank you representative Holmes. Mayor Adam O'Neal and Hood Richardson are walking with me and other people from Belhaven, North Carolina to rally North Carolina to try to save the hospital in Belhaven. Tomorrow is 9 11 and first responders are having a deacons of their time with no hospital and no room between little Washington, North Carolina and the outer banks. On our walks we've got blisters, we've got tiredness in our bones but we see all of the ambulances running up and down the road trying to save lives so their failure to expand, medicate here is now showing in peoples deaths. The mayor will be here and we will ask for help from the Governor and we've heard that the Governor feels being held hostage to this situation in Belhaven, North Carolina he's not hostage, he has the key to his own cell. He can unlock it by making sure that they get their certificate of need for that hospital, it's an existing hospital, the facilities have been there, the first Hill Burton hospital since 1949 the flagship of all rural health and the fact that it was closed down in Eastern North Carolina, Hyde county the largest counties in this state doesn't even have a doctor and that was the nearest hospital. So when they closed that hospital they knew they were condemning people to death. That needs to be fixed, and it will be fixed and the mayor will be here with other representatives and if we can't get help from the governor and other people in this state for a wide republican leaders and East and North Carolina, they're not about helping any poor or working class people in this state. And we're little people, we've walked already twice to Washington DC and then now we're having to walk to our capital in North Carolina just to get the governor to meet with the mayor and other people and say how can we get this hospital opened? Everything is cleared now except the certificate of need, it's a little piece of paper and they're interpreting as a functioning facility and it's a facility that has been there all along. Give us a little piece of paper and let us get that hospital open and show that people in rural areas not only need healthcare, they will get it for themselves

if they have a little bit of help. If there's any questions, thanks. Yes do anyone have a questions regarding to the bill heavy medicated expansion and that impact you know if next week they will be here. We don't know for sure, we were making about 15 miles a day. I'm 76 years old. I heard Richardson is old also. He's better than I am. I've already walked twice to Washington DC but he's a determined individual, the mayor is a determined individual too, and you know that we're going to make it so we will let you know as we come along, and we're going to walk around the mayors residence until the walls fall down, we blow a trumpet or whatever we need to because we've got a soldier go and get this done. Thank you. Just a quick closing comment and that's it, Representative Pierce I don't know if you have any other comments before we close, I appreciate you all giving these two issues the attention obviously they deserve. If we can provide anymore information from any members certainly contact us. The certificate in need is an issue, there's outstanding bills right now that are moving in the legislator. We hope that it will be addressed before this session is over, obviously we've had plenty of time to work on that. Well three or four people that matter had been negotiating on the budget apparently so I hope that we can get something done to alleviate this situation and I've had as I said communication from other counties even in Representative Louise's county where the hospitals are in dire straits and the Medicaid expansion is absolutely needed and we don't have any other plan really to address their needs. So again thank you, hope have a good weekend apparently and I guess we'll see you Monday morning at 10 for another noble session. Thank you.