rural

North Carolina Legislator Profile: Michael Wray (D-Halifax and Northampton)

In a series of Real Facts NC reports examining key North Carolina legislators, we look at Representative Michael Wray, who has represented Northeastern North Carolina since 2005. Wray has held several leadership positions within the House Democratic Caucus including Deputy Democratic Leader. As a legislator, Wray has touted his experience as a small business owner and as someone who fights for working families. In 2014, Wray said, “I have a record of leadership, accountability and responsibility to the people I serve and the people who elect me.” However, despite Wray’s assertions about his record, he has used his time in office to get ahead, while the people he represents have fallen further behind in a changing economy. Read the full profile here

Between July 2011 and June 2013, Michael Wray bought fuel 427 times, spending $28,000, enough to travel over 100,000 miles. Wray could have traveled the length of North Carolina 178 times. 
Read More

North Carolina legislator profile: Senator Phil Berger (R – Rockingham)

Over the next several months Real Facts NC will release a series of reports on key North Carolina legislators and how their work impacts the people in their districts. In the first of the series we’ll take a look at the man claimed by many to be the most powerful individual in state government, Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger.

Berger has represented Rockingham County since 2001 and became minority leader in 2004 and Senate President Pro Tem, the leader of the Senate, in 2011. While Berger has succeeded in Raleigh enacting his conservative agenda, Rockingham county has seen more than its fair share of setbacks in recent years. 

Read below a summary of how while Phil Berger has gotten ahead in Raleigh, Rockingham has fallen behind. Find the full report: here.

(Dwane Powell, The News & Observer)

 

Read More

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.

 

Read More

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.

Read More

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.
Read More