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No oversight, no science, no problem: Republicans want to spend $1.8 million "crisis pregnancy centers"

The Republican budget would increase state funding to pseudoscience crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) by 516%. These organizations masquerade as providers of health services to women, pushing dangerous and misleading propaganda on those seeking care. It’s also notable that this significant increase in public funding comes with no mechanism to hold these organizations accountable for their actions.

The compromise budget would allocate $1.3 million to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship which describes itself as “life affirming ministries”. Additionally, the Republican budget has allocated $100,000 to Coastal Pregnancy Center and $450,000 to H.E.L.P. Center, both are known CPCs.

The Republicans have even planned to give $300,000 in state funds to a Texas-based anti-abortion group that exists to outlaw all abortions. The Human Coalition deploys internet marketing strategies to ‘make abortion unthinkable and unavailable’ by directing patients to CPCs rather than legitimate healthcare facilities, some of which are ran by the Human Coalition themselves.

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Unconstitutional GOP majority proposes budget—our first take

This unconstitutionally elected Republican majority continues to legislate, not on behalf of the people of North Carolina, but on behalf of their billionaire backers. Instead of protecting the middle class and building world-class public schools, this budget gives tax breaks to billionaires. Under this budget, North Carolina will keep falling behind when it doesn’t have to.

  • The Republican budget fails our schools, middle class families, and the future of our economy at a time when we do not have to.
  • Cooper found a way to raise teacher pay more than 5% next year. Republicans only offer 3.3%. Instead of investing in classrooms, Republicans are giving millions in tax breaks to billionaires.
  • Cooper offered free community college for high school graduates, money to help teachers pay for out-of-pocket expenses, and eliminated the waitlist for pre-K. Republicans did none of those things.
  • Under this budget, we are still spending less that we did before the recession per student, teachers are still underpaid, and we have seven thousand fewer teaching assistants than we did in 2008.
  • Instead of prioritizing education, Republicans are undercutting our kids and it’s our economy that will suffer as North Carolina falls farther and farther behind other states and competitors like China and India. 

In addition to education, the GOP budget fails to provide for critical areas of need for rural North Carolina - including broadband and economic development..

  • Governor Cooper's budget invests $20 million to expand access to broadband and improve the economy of rural North Carolina, while the Republican budget would spend $250,000 on state IT bureaucrats.
  • Cooper proposed $30 million for a ready-sites program to attract new jobs to rural areas. The Republican budget leaves rural areas behind, choosing to spend only $2 million on ready-sites.

The GOP budget also wastes money on projects of the extreme right:

  • The Republican budget spends $1.3 million on an anti-abortion advocacy group that masquerades as a provider of health services to women, pushing dangerous and misleading propaganda on vulnerable women.
  • The GOP spends $40 million on private school vouchers which send tax dollars to unaccountable private and religious schools.

 

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While Republicans haggle over minor budget differences, neither offers “real competition” to the Cooper plan

Though there are several key sticking points between House and Senate versions of the budget that need to be negotiated, neither version holds a candle to the Cooper plan. As the Raleigh News & Observer said, Cooper’s budget offers a “better vision” for North Carolina.

Benefits for state retirees

The Senate budget provides no cost-of-living adjustment for retired state employees, and the House version includes only a one-time bonus of 1.6 percent.  When House Democrats tried to increase the cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees with an annual adjustment of 2 percent, Speaker Moore successfully tabled the amendment. With the House “adamant” to include the retiree bonus in the final budget, cost of living adjustments might become a sticking point between chambers.

Wind farm moratorium

The wind farm moratorium could be a deal breaker as the House might not have enough votes to override a Cooper veto if the final budget contains a moratorium. The Senate’s version of the budget includes a three-year moratorium on wind farms. Several key members of the House, including Rep. Bob Steinburg, said they could not support a budget with a wind energy moratorium. 

School construction grants

The chambers do not agree on the greatest needs in education funding. The Senate’s budget included a $75 million fund that would help pay for school repair and construction in poor counties. The House directs more money toward financial aid for college students and K-12 buses instead.

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House Budget: First Take

The House's budget posted just after 10:30pm this evening. You can find the bill text here and the committee report here.  We'll have more on the House budget by tomorrow.

Key Points

  • A budget tells you a lot about someone’s values and the House budget makes it obvious that Republicans in Raleigh value tax giveaways for billionaires over investing in our future.
  • The House budget fails to match Gov. Cooper’s concrete plan to raise teacher pay to the national average, make community college tuition free for high school graduates, expand access to broadband, and give law enforcement real tools to fight the opioid crisis.
  • Just like the Senate, the House budget pales in comparison to Gov. Cooper’s proposed plan.

 

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Republicans fund pseudoscience “crisis pregnancy centers”

Republicans in the legislature are more interested in funding ideological groups that mislead women and deal in pseudoscience than in providing actual health care to women.

This year’s House budget proposal allocates $1.3 million to the Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, a notable increase from the Senate’s $400,000 budget allocation. The Fellowship is an umbrella organization for so-called “crisis pregnancy centers.”

Crisis Pregnancy Centers, or CPCs, present themselves as women’s health clinics, but most CPCs do not have any medical professionals on their staff and few CPCs share this fact with their potential clients. Women walking into CPCs looking for abortion services would instead find anti-abortion “counselors”. These “counselors” give women inaccurate medical information about the risks associated with abortions, such as reporting a connection between abortion and breast cancer, a theory that has been discredited in multiple medical studies.

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Video: Senate budget ignores the needs of rural North Carolina

Earlier this week, Sen Phil Berger told the crowd at Rural Day that the Senate remains focused on “how we can improve the life of hard-working folks like you and your families” such as “confronting the opioid crisis” and creating common senses change that “enables rural North Carolina to thrive just like the rest of North Carolina.

Apparently, he forgot to tell his budget writers because the Senate budget clearly cares more about millionaire’s than rural communities. 

  • Broadband. Despite the desperate need to expand access to high-speed internet in rural, underserved portions of the state, the Senate budget calls for a paltry $250,000 increase for the state’s Broadband Office. Governor Cooper’s budget, on the other hand, called for an additional $20 million to increase access and improve service in Tier 1 and 2 counties — the poorest counties in North Carolina.
  • Economic development. Major manufacturers who locate in rural areas can be transformational for the economy of an entire region. The Senate plan spends only an additional $2.5 million preparing potential manufacturing sites for development. Governor Cooper called for an additional $30 million for his Ready Site program targeted at Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties.
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Where in the world is Dan Forest?

North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest has been noticeably absent from several key events in the state so far in 2017.

  • Most recently, Forest was in Salt Lake City, Utah and missed the NC Senate’s budget debate on May 11-12. (A budget that would add three people to his security detail btw, see below)

The NC Senate debated the budget on May 11 from about 4 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. They came back into session for the third reading at 12:05 a.m. on May 12. Forest, who’s role as Lt. Gov. makes him President of the Senate, did not preside over either session. Instead Forest was presiding over an empty chamber in the Utah Senate.

  

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Video: Despite his own bill, Sen. Wesley Meredith votes against rural broadband

In February Senator Wesley Meredith introduced S65, the BRIGHT Futures Act which encourages the establishment of a digital infrastructure, “necessary for economic innovation,” including broadband, in rural areas.

Meredith joined Cumberland Rep. John Szoka and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest for a press conference on February 9, in which Meredith expressed excitement about the bill saying it was something he had been working on for six years. 

“We have a lot of people who do not have access to broadband,” Meredith said, “we need to have that.”

S65 puts the Rural Economic Development Division in charge of giving grants to the Rural Infrastructure Authority to build digital infrastructure to support broadband. But while S65 is stuck in Senate Rules, Meredith had a chance to vote for the exact broadband investments he says he wants.

Instead, Meredith voted against a budget amendment that would have resurrected his six-year endeavor to connect rural North Carolina during the late-night Senate budget debate on May 12.

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