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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 reserved for the the poorest counties in the state.
  • Wind energy development.The Senate budget bans new wind energy development until 2021. The ban immediately endangers projects in Chowan, Perquimans and Tyrrell counties that will spur jobs and investments in counties badly in need.
  • Opioid crisis. Despite Sen. Berger’s statement at Rural Day, the Senate budget does not prioritize the opioid crisis. The Senate spends less than a million dollars largely on pilot and study prorgrams, while Governor Cooper’s budget included $14 million mainly targeted at law enforcement and community programs that combat the opioid crisis directly.
  • Middle class taxes. The Senate plan gives millionaires a tax cut 60 times the size of what rural middle class families would receive.
  • School funding. The Senate budget continues to underfund our public schools. According to the latest rankings, North Carolina dropped to 43rd in per pupil spending. The Senate budget falls 40% short of Gov. Cooper’s proposed increase. The lack of state spending will widen even further the achievement gap between urban counties that can supplement state budgets and rural counties that have less resources to do so.