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Farmers, schools suffer because of budget standoff, Edwards says

The budget standoff between Gov. Roy Cooper and the General Assembly is delaying money for everything from state employee pay raises to school construction to flood relief for farmers, state Sen. Chuck Edwards says.

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North Carolina has been operating on a continuing budget since July 1. A new budget can’t be finalized because Cooper wants the Legislature to expand Medicaid, which one study said would insure 634,000 North Carolinians by 2022. The budget Cooper vetoed included more than $63 million for high priority projects in Buncombe, Henderson and Transylvania Counties; all funding held up over one policy disagreement.
After meeting with the leaders, behind many of the projects that are not being funded in his district, Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson) said: “I don’t think that one policy disagreement should hold up numerous projects that could be helping the people in my District, as well as teacher and state employee raises, school construction, and rape kit testing. I hope that Gov. Cooper will drop his Medicaid-or-nothing ultimatum so we can move forward with legitimate negotiations on other topics. In the meantime, there is a continuing budget in place based on last year’s spending levels that fund the critical functions of state government.” He goes on to say, “It is time for the public to weigh in on this discussion. I urge you to call on the Governor to sign the budget, or the legislature to override the veto. We can then begin a serious discussion about what would be the alternatives to begin to close the health care coverage gap.”
The District 48 budget tour last week included stops that represented areas that have yet to receive appropriations because of the political standoff:
• Hillandale Elementary School - Henderson County Public Schools would receive $100,000 towards expanding their “Leader in Me” Education Initiative.
• McConnell Farms - Farmers from Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, Haywood, Polk, and Rutherford, counties could receive desperately needed financial assistance after experiencing significant crop losses last year because of severe flooding. The total amount of flood relief could reach as high as $10 million.
• Hendersonville High School - The Henderson, Transylvania, Buncombe, and City of Asheville schools systems would receive $42 million for school construction and capital projects.
• Oakley Elementary School - Buncombe County Public Schools would receive $100,000 to expand their “Leader in Me” Education Initiative.
• UNC School of Medicine, Asheville campus. The Western School of Medicine in Asheville would receive annually recurring funds of $4 million per year for a joint program between the UNC School of Medicine, other UNC System universities, and the Mountain Area Health Education Center. The MAHEC President Daniel Frayne said that this budget impasse “limits us to expand on our vision of teaching health practices in WNC.”
• First Contact Ministries. The nonprofit in Hendersonville would receive $25,000 toward a drug and alcohol treatment facility.
• Blue Ridge Community College - BRCC and all NC community colleges waiting on millions of dollars to address workforce development issues and to help citizens improve their standard of living. Additionally they would receive millions for capital improvement projects for new construction or rehabilitation of existing facilities and repairs and renovations.
• Craggy Correctional Center – Prison reform included $2 million for new security measures, including man-down tech and stab-resistant vests; funding for eight registered nurse positions to address inmate medical staffing needs; funding to create 32 immediate inmate substance abuse treatment slots (effective Oct. 1); and $1 million for reentry programs to reintegrate non-violent offenders. Most importantly it would provide a 5% pay raise for correctional officers over the next two years.

The new budget also provides state employees with a historic 5% raise; gave teachers their sixth and seventh consecutive pay raises; appropriates $4.4 billion over 10 years for school construction; and funds priority projects in communities across the state, Edwards said.