Sometimes when we hear about the state budget, the numbers aren’t relatable. Large amounts like $24 billion don’t fit into our everyday thoughts which are more about our mortgage, car payments, loans, savings, giving to our church and even having some left at the end of the month to enjoy.
But, with Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget, that $24 billion becomes very real. It’s real because so many people are affected in so many ways. What he thinks is most important is expanding Medicaid, and it matters not what programs are held up or which people suffer as a result.
The biggest thing we work on in the General Assembly is the budget. We pass a budget that funds state government for two years. The process is lengthy and a lot of work is done making sure that our state’s needs receive adequate funding. With a red “Veto” stamp, Gov. Cooper trashed months of work and placed the needs of a lot of our citizens on hold.
Statewide, the veto blocked teacher raises and raises for state employees — the largest state employees have received in a decade. Think of it like this: A hard-working state employee in the Department of Transportation for example, is running a hot asphalt machine and Gov. Cooper drives up.
He essentially greets that hard-working state employee and says, ”You do good work, but I’m not letting your raise become a reality. I’m blocking your raise, trying to make the legislature expand Medicaid.
I do not believe that people should be treated this way, especially by a governor who claims to care about them. It’s wrong.
There is so much more that is being held up — money for education, capital improvements to schools. There are resources for disaster recovery, money for improving community college campuses, resources for school safety and broadband, the great program which allocates $150 million for broadband in rural areas is blocked, simply because the governor is trying to force the General Assembly to expand Medicaid.
What is ironic is that the budget Cooper vetoed has a provision that states we will come back for a special session devoted to Medicaid and healthcare. As your representative, I know that there are plenty of needs in our healthcare system. I just don’t believe in holding people or programs hostage in order to get my way.
I worked very hard for you here in District 118. Here are some parts of the budget that are being blocked from our community because of Cooper’s veto:
Capital for construction and repairs for Haywood Community College in the amount of $2,105,434; for Yancey County Public schools in the amount of $10,572,504; for Madison County public schools in the amount of $10,666,773; and Haywood County public schools in the amount of $11,889,100.
Here are some other blocked items resulting from Cooper’s insisting Medicaid be expanded before he agrees to sign the budget:
• $125,000 for Haywood Community Learning center;
• $515,000 Anspach Advanced Manufacturing School Mayland Community College Yancey County campus. These funds will support equipment purchases and nonrecurring operational expenses.
• $188,000 for Madison county new election equipment;
• $400,000 for Yancey Co land purchase for new 911 dispatch center;
• New Forestry office in Madison County;
• Drug court in Haywood County 2019: $137,807 and in 2020: $94,568;
• Classroom Supplies — $15M Statewide basis;
• Yancey, Haywood, Madison – Early College – continue funding.
People don’t expect political games to be played by their elected officials. There are a lot of differing opinions where expanding Medicaid is concerned. As I mentioned, we are open to having a special session to explore what is best for North Carolina.
What is wrong is taking a stand on an issue that has yet to be shown to be what is best for the state and using the budget as a club to try to beat the House and Senate into submission.
I will continue to work hard for each of you in my district. I think there is a genuine feeling of disappointment with Cooper over what he is doing, now nearly five weeks past the start of the new budget year. We passed a budget in good faith. Gov. Cooper has left you and the rest of our community and state hanging in the balance.
Please call me at 919-733-5732 if I can be of service to you.
Rep. Michele Presnell is in her fourth term representing House District 118 including Haywood, Madison and Yancey counties.
It is ironic that to some extent the mainstream media covers fake news. That is because Donald Trump uses the media to distract from the real issues with sensationalist distractions. Instead of reporting on the terrible destruction of our intelligence, justice, agricultural, interior and state departments, the media focuses on Trump’s strategic distractions.
The latest is Trump’s racist rants against people of color. The fact that Trump is a racist is so old that only a paleontologist should be interested in it. From the time he was charged with civil rights violations in the 1970s to the present, his statements and behaviors have consistently shown clear racism.
Despite this, the media has breathlessly covered the current spate of racist attacks. From hyperventilating talking heads to repeatedly showing racist tweets, we have had days of nonstop coverage of a very old issue. The media has taken the bait like a pack of hungry dogs tossed a juicy steak.
What has not been covered is that Trump just nominated a nut-case conspiracy theorist to head the nation’s intelligence agencies. This is a person who does not believe that the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election in favor of Trump. Forget that various intelligence agencies in addition to ours have found evidence of Russian hacking with clear biases favoring Trump. This nomination is actually a threat to national security and should be the top issue in the media.
Our state department has hundreds of vacancies that Trump has no desire to fill. It will take decades to replace experienced people who have retired at the top levels of the department. Not having experienced and dedicated people on the ground makes the United States blind to events we should be aware of internationally.
Attorney General Barr is quietly undertaking an effort to “investigate” the investigators to intimidate any prosecutors who might want to investigate Trump’s or his family’s dealings or possible compromise by foreign agents. Barr clearly feels that he is Trump’s lawyer not the nation’s head of the justice department.
Every cabinet level agency head has either a direct conflict of interest or is willing to follow policies that are counter to science and reality. Agency heads deny either the existence of climate change or claim it is not human caused. Agencies charged with protecting the environment are dismantling regulations designed to protect it. Chemicals that may be destroying bees and other pollinators essential for crops are being ignored. Most agencies are filled with lobbyists that the agency in question was previously tasked to regulate. This is not draining the swamp it is filling it with poison.
Agencies are being instructed to either ignore scientific findings or to bury results from their own research that might offend Trump or contradict his fantasies. In the case of the department of agriculture, the agency head is trying to completely obliterate the science division that farmers rely on for key weather and other information. If successful in this effort, it may take a generation to get back to the abilities we had. The same thing is now being done to the scientists working in the interior department.
Being distracted by the outrage du jour, the media is not covering all the Trump failures and detriments to the general public. Remember the $4,000 you were supposed to get back from the Republican Trump tax cut? The tax cut was a sham for the general public as it benefited primarily those who did not need a tax cut. Additionally, it added trillions to the national debt that our grandchildren will need to pay.
Then there is the North Korean debacle. Trump caved in to cancel military exercises with South Korea, but got nothing in return. North Korea continues to develop its missile program and is not doing anything about its developed nuclear program. Trump keeps praising dictators while ignoring human rights violations.
The list of international fiascoes goes on and on. From counter-productive trade wars to alienating our former allies, Trump’s foreign policies (if you can call them policies) have been a disaster. The presidency of the United States is now a punch line for jokes. Foreign leaders put no stock in any pronouncement from the White house because Trump’s word is meaningless. He says one thing and the next minute says the opposite.
To distract the mainstream media, Trump does one outrageous thing after another and people in the media keep falling for it. The only fake news is from the outrageous shenanigans Trump uses to divert attention from the most serious issues of the time. This is not to say that racism is not a serious issue, but compared to the potential of the planet becoming uninhabitable or the U.S. becoming a failed state, it is not at the top of the list. It is high time that we demand that the media cover the most serious dangers of the Trump administration.
Norman Hoffmann lives in Waynesville.