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Senate | June 24, 2014 | Press Room | Democratic Minority Leader Press Conference Education

Full MP3 Audio File

Alright good morning, thank you for coming to this press conference for the House Democratic caucus, and we're going to be talking this morning about where we are in this budget process and how we need to proceed. First of all we have several House members here: representative of Tulsan, Fisher, Terry, Pearce, and also Glazier, and I am the Democratic leader Larry Hall from Dorm County and we have representatives here from all over the state. First of all, there is no doubt that Governor McCrory and the Republican leaders have caused what should be called an educational crises and a crises for our children when we cut half a billion dollars from our classrooms in this last budget. In order to line the pockets of out of special interest, to help out of state corporations, to help wealthy individuals, but not to help our students and help their futures. And it's in a truly absurd fashion that these same folks are now saying that they didn't know this was happening, that the day of reckoning would not happen. And they didn't understand that by cutting half a billion dollars from the education, there would be consequences and problems with our public schools. They decided to pick winders and losers and they decided to choose special interest over our children's needs and our children's futures and they also chose special interest over just conversation and fair treatment for our teachers now over the disabled and the blind if you look at these now proposed budgets. So now they are in an emergency situation of their own making, but rather than change their position and admit they were wrong and find a real, sustainable way for them to move forward to assure future for our children, they tried to find some bait-and-switch to make it appear that it is not an emergency, and certainly not one they're responsible for. Now the biggest telling feature that you can see is illustrated before you, the question of integrity in our process is important able cause people elect us and they tell us to come down here and deal with these major problems, but as we look at this budget, and we look at the proposals, several things have happened: first of all we know that classroom teachers that were promised in the previous budget showed up in the Senate and House budget and they don't, they were promised last years part of the half a billion, which was cut, they were promised that those positions would be there, but now they're gone, they disappeared. They're not there anymore, there's no explanation, folks who relied on the budget, the local school authorities who relied on the budget and relied on those positions- they're gone now and they're asked to make even more sacrifices. And so a promise made, but not a promise kept, you were given a budget cut, out of state corporations, the wealthy, well to do were given the budget cut. The teacher positions we're promised but now they won't be there. And so that illustrates what we've done now, that illustrates what we see in the budgeting, and the crises were in now, that was wilfull on their part to both promise it, and now decide to cut it. When we got to the House, they decided to come up with some "funny money" as people have talked about, and rather than be honest about what the dilemma is and what we had to do. As you can see from the coverage that's been had and it's been talked about, we took false numbers and sold the idea both to the public, created false expectations to the teachers who thought they could benefit from it, the state employees also who thought they might benefit from it, the children who's future we're talking about, and after a good look of what was proposed it's now clear the numbers were never there, they're not there now, it wasn't legitimate, it wasn't sustainable, and it hasn't been truthful- neither to the public, to the other members, to the press, even Republican members. The integrity of the House was assaulted, the integrity of the process has been assaulted, and there just really is no excuse to go to this point. Now people are talking about just walking away, we have been caught in the deception, we've been caught in the lies and now we're talking about just walking away and leaving North Carolina in a lurch, that is unacceptable despite all the things that have been

Happening after this point. Walking away if you just working away is unacceptable for this legislator walking away without getting a responsible budget done with sustainable pay raises for teachers, to insure for the future of our children, and to pay our state employees fairly is unacceptable. Right now, I want to let Susan Fisher have some words about education. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you Mr. ???, and thank you all for being here today it shows your interest in public education as well. I come at this from a little bit of a different perspective. I have been on the school board in Asheville city schools for eight years. I served four of those years as chair, and I’m a parent, and recently a grandparent. And we have children who are going to suffer because of this so-called plan that you have seen in both budget proposals. What I'm here to say is that our teachers, our children, our families in North Carolina deserve a long-term plan not a fly by night plan. To make sure that we bring teachers pay back to the national average and beyond. They deserve the support that’s necessary to perform to the best of their ability in the classroom. Right now teachers are pulling out of their own pockets to fund their classrooms with materials for the students to learn. And you know, if we don't make this kind of committed effort about raising teacher pay were going to continue to lose our best and brightest to other states to other countries. My son is teaching in Japan right now he has his teaching certification from North Carolina that, and I hope that one day he will come back to North America but, if you look at the state of education in North Carolina today, I don't know if I would advise him to come back to North Carolina. And, we're seeing so many people leave because of this terrible budget. Thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Now many of you know, Joe Tolson has been a leader in North Carolina and in the legislature and has seen many budgets but, I would dare to say, Joe that you never seen it like this before, where we have been shut out and stifled debate and discussion. Representative Tolson. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you, Representative Hall. You know I have been, and this is my eighteenth year here in the body and my last. I’m just frustrated at the process what I’ve seen happened the last four years in the budgeting processes and so forth. You know, the senior appropriations chair stood up on the floor when he was presenting their budget and saying that he would really like to have us involved. I don’t know why were weren’t involved, but as we prepared amendments for the budget if they didn't like them they immediately laid them on the table. How is that getting us involved? If you look at the conference committee there's an opportunity to get us involved. So, we could be heard, whether they do chose only one Democrat as I recall on the conference committee. Now how is that getting us involved? Plus, I represent a rural area of the state, Edgecombe and Martin County they're struggling, people struggling, but every time I look at what's happening in this budget it is taken away from those people that need assistance, that need some help, that need for us to step up and say yes we know you're struggling, we want to help you. But, we don't see that. We see as ?? Hall said that the helpful very wealthy got the tax breaks. I say to people in my area, calculate what you're going to earn from the tax breaks you got. I guarantee your gonna see that you're in a hole, because there was enough other taxes added to take away any savings that you would get from the tax breaks that you received. And, I asked them to go back and analyze and if they see anything otherwise I'd like to know it, but I haven't had anybody come back to me and say yeah you're right. But, that's what's happening the very wealthy are getting the benefits, the very poor are paying for it. So, I just see a lack of care, and love and understanding for the average income earner across this state as well as the very needy across the state. It's already been well stated about education. But folks, it goes not only education, it goes across the board.

With everything that I see happening in this budget. And I hope that the people affected are paying close attention and listen and know what they can do about it in November. Thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Thank you Representative Tolson. I guess the question is, now that we're here and we know we can't trust what we hear from leadership, that they'll inflate numbers, that they'll fail to even disclose to their own party members what the truth is, and that we have to have hearing after hearing to make a determination of what are the real numbers and what's the real situation. After we know that we can't trust what they say, they'll say one thing in the budget to get it passed, and then when the time comes to deliver, they'll take that away too for all those folks who relied upon it. Now we need a budget. And people have said well we'll just go home. We don't have to have a budget, we'll leave it like it is. What are our options now as North Carolinians? What can we do to make sure we know that our future will be assured for our children, for education in this state, and for our blind, our poor, our disabled, who would be victimized in these budget proposals. What can we do? Well, there's been a proposal that there be an open conference process so the public can witness what's going on, who's making the proposals, and so the public can be involved in analyzing and bringing ideas forward. So not a backroom deal this time. Not five or six people on one side in a super majority or a governor who's running for reelection already or a speaker who's running for U.S. Senate. But let's have an open discussion so the public can see who is bringing forward the ideas, what are they actually based on, and they can do the research to make sure bad information, false information, doesn't get figured into the equation, and that promises that are made can or will be kept. So, since we've destroyed the public trust what do we do to rebuilt it? Let's open this conference committee to the public. As you heard from Representative Tolson, there should have been some Democrats on there, none on the Senate side, one registered Democrat on the House side, and no progress right now on resolving this budget impasse. Now we have the Governor saying let's just plan not to have a budget adjustment. Let's just plan to have major departments of our state take major cuts. Like the Department of Public Construction. Tell them to just find the thirty percent cut somewhere. Forget about the teachers getting a pay raise. Forget about our childrens' future when our teachers leave the state, our best and brightest. They've also said well, UNC system you need to plan for another twenty million dollar cut. I would say that's not acceptable. The citizens didn't send this legislature down here for the short session to walk away from these responsibilities. So again, we're asking that this conference process be open to the public. As Representative Tolson said they need to have an opportunity to see and hear what goes on and Democrats need to have their ideas heard as well and we need to fulfill our obligation to come up with a budget as a legislature and an executive branch with the Governor signing this budget. Walking away is not the answer. Taking an interim break is not the answer. Getting down to business and having an open conference process is the answer, we say, and we would demand that. That that be what is done so we can move forward and get a budget for the people of this state. I'll go ahead and take questions now. [SPEAKER CHANGES] How realistic is it that they're going to walk away? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well I think if you look at previous sessions where we've had continuing resolutions I believe the first time we had a long session we came back we had, what did we have, five?, we had a continuing resolution that had five times that we came back for votes and in the interim something was done where we all could not participate in what was going on, so - [SPEAKER CHANGES] They don't need a CR this time though. [SPEAKER CHANGES] They can do a CR. [SPEAKER CHANGES] But they don't need one. [SPEAKER CHANGES] They shouldn't have one. We should stay here and get the budget. That's what we came down here for, that's what we should do. [SPEAKER CHANGES] What I guess I'm saying, we have a budget in place that was passed last year. [SPEAKER CHANGES] We do have a budget that was in place that was passed last year. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yeah so, they could leave that in place and go home, right? [SPEAKER CHANGES] That is one option. That's unacceptable to the people of North Carolina. It's unacceptable to the students in my district, to state employees in my district, to citizens in my district. Walking away from our responsibility is not acceptable to them. They need to know what to exp

When they do their local budgets, and find ways to support education and services in their local areas. [SPEAKER CHANGES] With all the pressure to increase teacher pay this year, they’ve got elections coming up, how realistic is it to expect that they will walk away? [SPEAKER CHANGES] How realistic is it to expect that they will walk away? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes. [SPEAKER CHANGES] They have made the statement that they could do it. The house leadership and the Republican Senate have both said they could walk away. So I don’t know, are you asking should we believe them? And again, we talked about integrity. Should we believe them? I don’t know. I know they have said that they could walk away. I know they have now said they are trying to wind down operations. We don’t have a budget. So I heard the speaker say on the floor the other night that the conference committees are not, the conference committee is not meeting, or hasn’t been doing work, or asking or begging the question is the Senate going to engage? Yes sir. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Do the people at home who aren’t immersed in this whole process, there is a budget in place from last year. Can you explain what it would mean to the people in North Carolina I guess, if there isn’t a new budget, or any amendments that are made to the previous budget? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well, like I said, if there are no amendments made to the previous budget and the Governor now has defined a way due to the major shortfall we have, to try to find a way to operate state government without some other changes in revenue or priorities, then again, you’re talking about a 30% cut. In essence, you have flex cuts across all the state departments. So if you talk about DPS, you’re talking about 30% cut, plus 70 fewer school nurses. So what’s a 30% cut going to look like when it gets down to the local level? If you’re talking about the University of North Carolina and you’re taking 20 million dollars out of that then, where does it come from? Where have we not already cut the last cycle that will yield that 20 million dollars in their category area? So Department of Health and Human Services. In the Senate proposal, you know they decided we’ll end up cutting 32 million from coverage. As a result of that, it may be those who are blind or disabled, etc. but the cuts will have to come somewhere and they’ll apparently according to the government, be within those departments and at their discretion. So folks at home will see and feel this. Yes sir. [SPEAKER CHANGES] The memo says that you, what the state agencies are going to do is they’re going to receive a July allocation that is just a big pot of money that reflects the highest, the deepest cuts. And there’s no provisions that say you have to cut 30% from DPI in July. It says here’s the amount of money that you have to work with for the month. So who’s to say that, I mean, aren’t you saying certain things that are happening that really aren’t necessarily going to happen right away unless there’s no budget at all? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well yes, that’s what this whole discussion is about. How do we get to a budget and is it acceptable for us to leave without a budget? And yes, you’re saying that it’ll have to be overall cuts and the question becomes if we don’t have a budget then how do you achieve those cuts? And those were some scenarios of how someone would have to go about achieving the cuts. Mr. Frank. I’ll come back to you. Mr. Frank. [SPEAKER CHANGES] You’re calling for an open conference process, that is not something Democrats do. ?? suggested ?? a little bit. [SPEAKER CHANGES] We have had to a certain degree some openness on our budgets. So, [SPEAKER CHANGES] You’re asking for that same level of openness or more openness? [SPEAKER CHANGES] I’m asking for more openness. Again, if you have a lack of credibility, if you’ve damaged the credibility of this institution, if you misrepresented to your own members and to the public, you have to increase that level of openness because you now have to earn back the public trust. And I don’t think you could say that we had lost it, when we had open hearings. And so we never had something like that, where we even misinformed our own members, the public, the press, and I don’t know who got thrown under the bus at the end but, and I don’t know that that’s over. But I’m certainly sure that the public doesn’t have any confidence in numbers they hear now. [SPEAKER CHANGES] What other significant legislation are you anticipating could get left behind if they adjourn? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well, we know that the coal ash bill is still out there. And that’s a major piece of environmental legislation and regulatory legislation. We’ve got a regulatory reform bill now that is up that’s had I think there were some 16 or 18 amendments given to the new bill that was just introduced today, and so I don’t see that that would be able to move and go to the Senate and just be approved. So there’s several other major pieces of legislation out there that need to be addressed. Any other questions? Okay, thank you.

you very much.