Government haters want to cut $1 billion

Budgets will be on everyone's mind over the next couple of months, with anti-tax wingnuts crying foul and demanding $1 billion of "their" money back out of the once-in-a-blue-moon surplus. So just exactly what do they not want to do? Here's Easley's wish list for a $18.9 billion plan for the 2006-07 fiscal year.

$324 million in state's rainy-day reserve fund.

$50 million for disaster-related expenses.

$200 million to repair state and university buildings.

$329 million for new construction, including N.C. Museum of Art expansion, new state emergency operations center and university buildings.

$245 million in special indebtedness to build new combined public health lab and state medical examiner's building, as well as new prison hospitals.

$48 million for 3.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees.

repays $30 million withheld from state retirement system during 2001-02 session.

caps the variable portion of the gasoline tax July 1, leaving the tax no higher than 29.9 cents per gallon, at a loss of $23.6 million.

reduces the state sales tax by 0.25 percent on Oct. 1, at a loss of $196.5 million.

enacts state adoption tax credit at 50 percent rate of federal credit, at a loss of $3 million.

transfers $195 million from general operating fund to Highway Trust Fund.

raises public school teacher salaries by an 8 percent average, rank-and-file state employees and higher education employees by 4 percent, with an additional 4 percent for community college faculty and professional staff, at a cost of $594 million.

spends $8.6 million to raise pay for school bus drivers, custodians and teacher assistants above federal poverty levels.

pays for 38,103 additional students to attend public schools at a cost of $76.3 million.

funds ABC teacher performance bonuses at $90 million.

fully funds low-wealth school district financial assistance and adds to disadvantaged student supplemental funding and high school turnaround program, $69 million.

hires 100 literacy coaches in middle schools, $4.8 million.

expands Learn and Earn high schools from 13 to 34 in 2006-07, $9.8 million.

expands small specialty high schools from 11 to 32 through New Schools Project, $4.5 million.

spends $79 million to teach an additional 6,736 students at University of North Carolina system schools next fall.

expands biotechnology training projects at N.C. State University and N.C. Central University by $4.5 million.

spends $11.5 million for higher-than-expected power bills at university campuses.

adds costs for 2,250 additional community college students, $7 million.

buys $11 million in community college campus equipment.

sets aside $18 million from N.C. Education Lottery Fund to pay for 3,200 additional slots for the More at Four pre-kindergarten program.

sends another $194 million from the lottery fund to replace general funds for More at Four and class-size reduction. The general fund dollars will be used for other education needs.

distributes $170 million in lottery funds for school construction and $42.5 million for college scholarships for needy students.

expands N.C. Housing Trust Fund by $5 million.

expands child-care subsidies for 2,939 low-income working parents, $20 million.

gives $10 million to Smart Start early childhood program.

spends $12 million more on foster care and adoption assistance services.

adds $7 million for early intervention programs for children with development disabilities or at a risk of having them.

covers state share to buy antiviral medication for first responders in event of flu pandemic, $190,000.

expands universal vaccine program for children, $6.5 million.

reduces Medicaid funding by $150 million, the result in part of a higher federal match rate and savings from the Medicare prescription drug program.

spends $89 million to expand community services for mentally ill, including crisis teams, community-based hospital beds, as well as improving security at state institutions.

gives $10 million to One North Carolina Fund for economic development.

appropriates $5 million for One North Carolina Small Business Innovation Research Program.

hires State Bureau of Investigation agents and crime lab positions for $1.5 million.

seeks $1.9 million to replace statewide fingerprint identification system.

spends $1.5 million to monitor convicted sex offenders with electronic monitoring system.

continues to build statewide radio network that allows local and state law officers and emergency responders to talk to each other, $10 million.

hires new assistant prosecutors, judges and support staff to reduce case backlogs, at a cost of $9.5 million.

expands court technology systems, $10.8 million.

increases Crime Victims Compensate Fund by $700,000.

provides $2.4 million for private well construction.

There are some things here I'm not all that excited about, but I recognize that ME being excited isn't what North Carolina's budget is for. It's designed to foster the common good, which is something anti-tax zealots and government haters could care less about.


GOP: "Starve the Beast"

The GOP plan, if they had their way - "Starve the Beast". Cut revenue by giving massive tax breaks to the wealthy and big business, and then cut government services to the bone to pay for it. They have no interest in good, efficient government.

It's what they are doing in DC now, and what the GOP would do in Raleigh if given the chance.

Easley has a lot of good priorities in that list - education, infrastructure. I am sure the legislature will change it some, but Easley will get most of what he wants.

It would be hard to know what to cut...

Glad I don't have to figure it out.

My new picture is of my girls, but I'm not sure it's clear enough. They are the reasons I look forward to each day.

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Gas Tax Cap - Bad Idea

Capping the gas tax is an attempt to take that issue away from the dark side. Is it a good idea? Probably not.

NCDOT maintains the 2nd largest highway system in the country - about 80% of the roads statewide. It takes $$ to do that. $$ raised through the gas tax. DOT will need other revenue sources if gas tax revenues are capped.

How do our neighbors do it? SC, GA, and VA only maintain 20-30% of their roads with state $$, so of course their gas tax is lower. It is up to cities and counties to maintain the rest. And where do the cities and counties get the money? Sales tax, property tax, and fees.

Of those choices, I prefer the gas tax. Don't want to pay it? Drive less. Or buy a fuel efficient car.

I'm with Todd.

And I hope he'll hang around here a lot with this kind of clear, focused thinking.

Purty please?

Teacher raises

I'm glad that teachers are getting raises because they definitely deserve it. However, I would bet my last dollar that if you surveyed the teachers in this state, the majority would take a much smaller raise if they could get their teacher's assistant back. I'm not sure how it is in the rest of the state, but Guilford County Schools got rid of most of their teacher's assistants. My mom, who teaches 3rd grade has to share one with 4 other teachers (which means she rarely gets the help she needs). Last year when she taught 4th grade, she didn't have one at all.