Editorial: A Budget Worth Fighting For

By: Representative Larry Strickland

The North Carolina state budget, which was passed with bipartisan support, provides crucial investments in our region and across our great state. Yet, Governor Cooper vetoed it simply because it does not include his demands for Medicaid expansion.  That is not right.

This budget is good for hardworking North Carolinians.  It provides state employees and teachers with another pay raise, includes critical new funding for school construction, enhances school safety, expands rural broadband and much more.

That’s why it is so frustrating that the Governor would hold the entire state budget hostage over a single policy issue, especially something as controversial as expanding government-run health care.

What are the consequences of the Governor’s “Medicaid-or-nothing” demands on the state budget? Municipalities will not receive any new funding for economic development, teachers will not receive their seventh consecutive pay raise, and hurricane victims will not receive much needed disaster recovery resources.

Furthermore, there are serious consequences for the people that I am proud to represent in Johnston and Harnett counties. This budget includes critical new funding that I secured for each municipality in House District 28 – including $5.1 million for the Johnston County Airport.

It also includes $257,000 for much needed renovations at the Selma depot. It’s not hard to see that this budget is huge for the people of eastern North Carolina.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the funding for our towns in House District 28:

Town of Kenly- $50,000
Town of Micro- $50,000
Town of Pine Level- $100,000
Town of Smithfield- $200,000
Town of Benson- $100,000
Town of Angier- 100,000
Town of Wilsons Mills- $100,000
Town of Four Oaks $200,000
Benson American Legion- $125,000

Under Republican leadership, teachers have now received a pay raise every year since 2012. This budget would continue that while also increasing spending in education by over $1.4 billion. Importantly, the budget also includes a new multi-billion-dollar statewide school construction initiative to rebuild our schools, which is desperately needed in rural North Carolina.

These investments in education are critical to ensuring our children and teachers have the best opportunity to succeed. At the end of the day, one of the most important things we can do as legislators is to invest in our children’s education. That’s why this budget is so important.

Lastly, our farmers and rural communities need this budget. Unfortunately, Governor Cooper’s veto means that $100 million in disaster relief funding will not reach those in need. People are still hurting from the damages from Hurricanes Mathew and Florence – and they need these resources to help rebuild.

As an Agriculture chairman in the NC House, I’ve seen firsthand how critical this funding is for eastern North Carolina. The folks back home are hurting, and if that’s not enough of a reason to override the veto then I’m not sure what is.

It’s time for the Governor to end his budget hostage.  We are more than willing to have a discussion and debate on Medicaid expansion.  In fact, we have included a provision in the budget for the Governor to call a special session dedicated to this issue and other health care matters. But let’s not hold up the entire budget and these much needed resources for our citizens to force Medicaid expansion.

The people of North Carolina deserve better.  Let’s pass the budget.

Rep. Larry Strickland is in his second term representing House District 28, which includes Johnston and Harnett counties. He can be reached at 919-733-5849