No way to treat the hardworking people of North Carolina

Published 6:28 pm Tuesday, July 23, 2019

From N.C. Representative Keith Kidwell

It is my great honor and privilege to serve the fine citizens in Beaufort and Craven counties. I am working hard to keep my promise to represent District 79 well, making sure that the needs and issues of our communities are heard in the General Assembly.

The biggest thing we do as elected representatives is work on the state budget. The House and Senate have worked for months refining and making sure essential priorities are included.

Together we passed a responsible budget with many key provisions for the next two fiscal years.

The budget that passed by Republicans and Democrats alike in the House and the Senate is a very good budget, reflecting the needs that are important for our state and its citizens to keep moving forward.

Gov. Cooper vetoed the budget, putting his desire to expand Medicaid ahead of the needs of people not only in District 79 but all across North Carolina. In a move that can only be described as selfish and hypocritical, Cooper has blocked resources that regular folks in our state need.

A look at the budget from a statewide perspective shows that Cooper is blocking one of the largest pay raises for state employees in decades — 2.5% per year, so 5% over the two years. Cooper has vetoed every teacher pay raise the General Assembly has sent to him since he took office. This budget is no different in that once again he has vetoed a pay increase for teachers.

Closer to home, Cooper is blocking capital improvements at Beaufort County public schools in the amount of $12,165,414, and for Craven County public schools­ in the amount of

$14,384,993. I voted for this budget knowing that these needs are real and the funds can go a long way in helping these schools. Not only that, but the budget also has funding for capital needs at Craven County Community College in the amount of $5,755,089.

It is important to me that you be aware of some of the other items in the budget that directly impact our community. There is $50,000 for the Town of Vanceboro to build a handicapped accessible observation deck on the town’s fishing pier; $50,000 for Cove City for a park grant and $35,000 City of Dover for community center upgrades. These may not be huge budget items, but they are real dollars that will help people in our towns.

Additionally, there is $65,000 to the City of Washington for a new P.S. Jones Memorial Park. There is a provision for Craven County to fund an additional district attorney investigator position. There is $250,000 to the Craven County Sheriff’s Office for VIPER radios and $75,000 to the Craven County Sheriff’s office.

You will also find tax cuts for everyone with an increased standard deduction and a cut in the corporate franchise taxes. As we have seen with the recent state tax cuts and restructuring, our economy improves when we reduce tax burdens on the people and business. Recently, North Carolina was rated as having the best overall economy in the United States and as the third-most business-friendly state by Forbes.

Statewide the budget provides $112 million in disaster relief funding, $4.4 billion for school construction across the state, $91 million for school safety initiatives and $3 million in school lunch assistance.

The good news is that the state is operating under what is called a continuing resolution. This means that last year’s budget continues. But, Cooper’s veto blocks the new funding that this year’s passed budget puts in place. And that is a shame.

I will be the first to tell you that our healthcare system and insurance needs work. But, it is irresponsible for Gov. Cooper to hold up a nearly $25-billion budget solely because he wants to expand Medicaid. We in the General Assembly have offered to convene a special session to address healthcare and insurance, but Cooper has not moved from his position that it’s either expand Medicaid or no budget. That is no way to govern and surely no way to treat the hardworking families of North Carolina.

Rep. Keith Kidwell is in his first term representing House District 79, which includes Beaufort and Craven counties.