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Joint | July 29, 2014 | Press Room | Democrat Budget Press Conference

Full MP3 Audio File

Representative Larry Hall, Democratic Leader in the House of Representatives. Appreciate you coming to hear from us this morning on the fantasy budget that we have out here, or it might be a mystery, I'm sure you want to know and of course, the rest of us in the legislature want to know what's in this budget. You know, we know why we're here today; it's because of the giveaways we did, we gave them to out-of-state corporations, we gave tax breaks to millionaires, and we knew that we didn't have the revenue to elevate our teachers from 46th in the nation, yet and still, we made those decisions. And now, of course, the out-of-state corporations and the millionaires are happy, but our teachers and our public education, and the future of our state is still in doubt. Now, everyone agrees we need to raise pay to the national average to stay competitive and to move our state forward, and everybody's willing to give lip service to that concept, but again remember where we are and how we got here, we're giving lip service to that, we're giving tax breaks to the out-of-state corporations and the millionaires, lip service to moving our teachers to the national average. So what is real, and what is not? We went through this process, we know that we've used disingenuous and misleading information throughout this process, and that's why we've demanded that we have these discussions regarding the budget in public. And so we had a few discussions, but now we've gone back to the same old backroom deals, a couple people know what's going on, no one else knows, and if we recall, before we forced there to be public discussions, there were bogus lottery numbers being used, that people subsequently had to admit, yes, they weren't true, they knew they weren't true, and they were being used in the process. Then we went through the discussion of Medicaid dollars, what were the real costs, what were the legitimate expectations and the estimates, who was using them, and, if you recall, we ended up settling on an agreed-upon number, not based on a fact, not based on projections, that was an agreed-upon number just based on negotiations, so again how valid is that number? If both of the parties were sincere about what they said the Medicaid costs were, we ended up with a number that was negotiated not based on fact, not based on agreement that this is what it's going to really cost, but just let's move this process along, which is fine, when you are charge, you have the ability to do that. Well, we had to have these public negotiations because we found out about those misleading statements. They weren't just misleading, they were misstated, and they were miscalculated. Most recently we know we got projections of additional losses of revenue, but now here we are. After all of this, the backroom deals are back, and we've seen this before, we started off that way, and we said we need to have public discussions. So now we started of with the Speaker and the Governor saying "this is going to be our budget, this is what we're going to do, and the Senate needs to get on board". We weren't even invited. Now we have the Speaker and the Senate President saying, President Pro Tempore, saying "this is going to be the budget, we're going to get in a room together, the two of us, and decide what it's going to be, and the Governor's not invited". Now we've seen this movie before, it doesn't end well, who's going to get the shaft in this deal. Now they've created this sense of urgency, oh it's got to be done, someone said, by the end of this week, but no one knows what's in the budget. We're going to do it through a conference report, where you have to vote it up or down, but no one knows what's in the budget. We've heard someone say, "well, just have faith in us." These are the same guys that misstated what the calculations would be from the lottery, disagreed widely and wildly on what the Medicaid costs would be, these are the same guys now saying "just trust us, and you'll probably like what we do, and then we're going to go home." Well, not only did they do that, but they put it in a form now, in this conference report, that when they bring it out, you're going to have to vote on it, and you're not going to have a chance to really review it, to amend it, to do any of those things, they're just going to bring it out, pass it, and then you can figure out, members of the Legislature, the public, even the press...

Y’all are gonna have to figure it out after it’s done. That’s the track that we’re on right now. That’s not the track anyone wanted to be on. The public doesn’t want a budget that they don’t know anything about. So they created this urgency. They put it in conference report now. They tell you we can’t tell you what it is. We can’t tell you how we came up with the figures and the numbers in it. Well, I would submit after the record of this session, that Speaker Tillis, and Senate President Pro Tempore Burger can be credible, credible on this issue now. All we can depend on is what they’ve done and their record says. And that is we’re going to give the tax breaks to the out of state corporations and the millionaires, and then whatever crumbs are left we may give toward teacher raises and to state employee raises. And then, whatever else is needed as far as Medicaid etc, who knows? We may do reform. We may put it in the budget, we may not. We may not even discuss it. Once again, out of state corporations and millionaires, they get the gold mine. Citizens of North Carolina regarding education and health care, they’re getting the shaft. Now, we need to see what’s gonna be in this budget before it comes in the form of a conference report. So I’m gonna challenge once again, as we did before, that they put this conference report out for a 72 hour review. We were assured that they were gonna have these negotiations in public, and we made a big spectacle of it, but now they’re going back behind closed doors. So we’re gonna request that it be put out for a minimum of 72 hours, so citizens can know what’s in this budget. So interest groups and professionals who understand the impact of it can tell us what it is going to do, and what the impact is going to be. Not just us, meaning not just Democratic legislators, but Speaker Tellis, and President Pro Tempore Burger as well, what effect this will have. I wanna just reference finance co-chair David Lewis and his observations. He said the decisions we made were based on those estimates. Unfortunately, note that word unfortunately, some of those estimates have proven not to be right. Well now we know some of those estimates were known not to be right when they were told to us, especially regarding the lottery and then the dispute that was made on Medicaid. But he says, if there’s additional indication that revenue’s going to be down, we already got the report last week, there’s no question of an indication. The projections are that the revenue is going to be down. If there’s additional indication that revenue is going to be down, we’re probably going to have to take a look at it. Is it a short term thing? Is it a long term thing? What the possible fixes will do. Well that’s what we’re here for. Now I don’t know who the “we” is that are going to look at it, but I think the citizens of North Carolina who are affected by it should have a chance to look at it. And I want to call David Lewis to account for his word. We know there’s a problem with the revenues, the numbers are down. We need to have an opportunity to look at this, and this is just unsatisfactory to say we’re going to budget in this manner after we were assured that this would be done publicly and the public would have an opportunity to be involved and see what was going to happen with the negotiations. So I’m a-go ahead and ?? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Yes, thank you. Thank you all for being here and for your interest in this topic. We’re all, we’ve all been interested in seeing how it will end up. A couple of things- And by the way, I’m Susan Fisher. I’m one of the House Minority Whips, from Buncombe County. I’ve been here for five terms, getting ready to run for a sixth, and I have never seen – I have never seen so much dealings done in private behind closed doors as we have seen during this session. Just wanted to highlight a couple of things that leader Hall mentioned, and they are that as the article in the N&O suggested yesterday, the smoke is on Jenns Street. The smoke appears on Jenns Street, well that in itself implies that everything was done in private. We don’t know what’s in the budget. We were asked do we know? Well, no, we don’t know specifics. We know what we’re getting from our constituents. I’m hearing already from folks at home, teachers in particular, who are saying, you know

The raise sounds good. But how stable is that? Will we be able to count on that next year, or the next year? We know that this is all been done between a few people and among a few people, it has not engaged the whole citizenry. The other thing that happened the last time they went behind closed doors, as Leader Hall mentioned, their figures, their numbers sort of disintegrated when the public got see what was actually was being proposed, and I refer to the lottery numbers when I’m talking there. Now though, this goes back to another thing mentioned, the stakes are even higher because what we’re going to see after they open the door is a conference report. Conference reports can not be amended, what we see, is what we get. Nobody gets a chance to have any input, and they’ll run that through both chambers, and then they’ll go home and say look what a great job we did. And, that’s what they’re going to do before the public even knows what’s in the bill. So, I challenge them to back to the democratic process, to allow the public, the people they represent, to have a say in what happens to their livelihood. Thank you. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I want to take questions, but I do want to be clear, that even the press has a responsibility here. Certainly unless, you know a lot more than I know, you don’t know enough to report to the public what their representatives are doing on this budget and what it means to them and what it’s going to cost them. And so, at this point, for us to be able to say the budget is good, the budget is bad, someone should trust someone, this institution and this state is not built on trust, it’s built on a democratic process. And again, I will continue to be an advocate for; I want to emphasis, no matter what else happens, the tax give-a-ways have happened and another is going to come starting in January. We already know these 788 positions that we talked about before and you seen this before, are not in controversy. That means, those 788 teachers positions, no matter what scenario they bring out, now, unless they change the procedure, those positions that were promised are gone. They are not gong to be fulfilled as they were supposed to in this budget. Tax give-a-ways for the out of state corporations and millionaires, the promised teachers that would have been in the classrooms to help our children and their future, already have been agreed to be eliminated. Now, what are we talking about now? Are talking about pay raises for the teachers that are left? Are they sustainable? Are they onetime money? As some people have suggested part of the funding would be? I almost would challenge you. This might be your press conference now, for you to answer the questions. You’re informing the public. Do you know? We don’t know. We’ll take questions if we can answer them. Yes Ma’am. [SPEAKER CHANGES] I understand what you are saying and what Roseann Fisher are saying, but for a long time pledge negotiations have gone on behind closed doors, and this is not exactly a new development in the way budgets get written. Why is it more [egregious] now then when the democrats did it? [SPEAKER CHANGES] Well, a couple of things. First of all, supposedly the republicans said there was going to be a change, there was going to be 72 hours to read deals, etcetera, remember all the poppy-cot that went out. So, now the time has come to come forward and live up your word, that’s the first thing. Second thing is, you claimed, the republicans claimed that the reason there was a change is because there was not enough transparency in government. So, show us by your example. What is your example? The only reason they started the transparency in process during this cycle was because we demanded it, and it was so obvious and clear to the public, after we caught them in lie after lie on the figures, that they had to do it. Now we have gone back behind the closed doors. They have a super majority, so we can’t stop them from doing anything they want to do. Even, the governor is going to get overridden by the veto, they've already made that threat to him. So, they didn't even bring him in the room when they said we’re going to do the final round, we’re not going to have 3 guys in the room, we’re having 2, we can veto whatever you got to say, so you’re just out of the picture, you’re the governor but who cares, we’re in charge, we got a super majority. So, if you have a super majority, you’re going to do what you want to do anyway, at least let the public know what they’re going to be in for.

Do we have some type of transparency. Again, we’re going to get...well, let me make sure I phrase this properly, we’re on the air. They’re going to be consequences as a result of what they do and they have the votes to do whatever they want to do unless they hear from the people. We’re just calling them to come forward on their word, on their promises to the people. They said they were going to do it differently. As you referenced, it seems like they’ve gone even further in the past. Yes sir. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Do you have have any indication when you’re going to see a conference report? I know there’s a press conference for this afternoon. [SPEAKER CHANGES] We know there’s a press conference called for this afternoon. That’s all we know. We haven’t been given any information about exactly what will be in it or what the time table of it will be. And again, we’ve heard like you’ve heard, that some folks say we’ll be out of here this week. By using this conference report methodology without disclosing it and giving the review period that they had so loudly promised about 72 hours, theoretically, we could be out of here this week and we still won’t know what’s in that conference report. We could vote it Thursday and Friday. By next Monday we still won’t know what’s in that conference report. Any further questions? All right, well, I look forward to talking to you tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll be back here. Take care. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Do you know, is the House session tomorrow planned to be a vote session? [SPEAKER CHANGES] It will be a vote session. [SPEAKER CHANGES] Ok.