Durham’s state House Democrats weigh in against pending state budget spending, tax cuts

Durham’s N.C. House members met the public in a town hall Saturday to express their doubts about the newly passed state budget.

This town hall, held in the Durham County Board of Commissioners Chambers in the old county courthouse at 200 E. Main St., featured Durham’s two newest state representatives. 

Rep. MaryAnn Black, D-Durham, fills a vacancy left after Larry Hall was appointed secretary for the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Black has a background in social work and served as County Commissioner between 1990 and 2002.

Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham, fills the vacancy left by the death of Paul Luebke. Morey was a Durham County District Court Judge before her appointment.

Black’s and Morey’s fellow Reps. Mickey Michaux and Graig Meyer were also in attendance. All four are Democrats.

Morey opened the discussion by explaining her lack of support for the proposed state budget which has passed both houses of the state Legislature but faces a near-certain veto by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat.

The Republican dominated Legislature however has enough votes to override the anticipated veto.

“The new budget was shortsighted and shortchanges our citizens.” Morey said, claiming that it introduces tax cuts targeted primarily to the state’s wealthiest residents.

Michaux also criticized the tax cuts, saying they go too far. He says tax cuts could be half of what have been proposed and the state would still be able to overcome any deficit it faces.

Michaux said the tax cuts mean the government will lose more than $1.5 billion in tax receipts

Concerns over education spending were also raised. Meyer spoke at length about potential harm.

“The education budget this year has some fantastic top-line numbers. There is going to be a pay raise for teachers,” Meyer said. “Unfortunately, if you look just below the surface, it’s not quite so good.” 

Meyer says teacher pay raises are “significantly less” than those proposed by the governor. First-year teachers will go without any raise whatsoever. Meyer says they will have less income than first-year teachers last year as state health care premiums will be increasing.

A pay raise of 0.6 percent will be given to veteran teachers. This equals $30 per month, Meyer said. 

“Once you get to year 15 with this budget, the pay scale flattens out for 10 years. No step increase until year 25,” Meyer said. Teachers reaching their 25th year of service will receive an increase of $130 per month under the current budget.

Some teachers in the county will be receiving bonuses of a couple hundred dollars. Meyer said that those bonuses will not go toward their retirement funds. 

“Even if it’s enough to keep them in the classroom for a couple years, it doesn’t help with their long-term financial liability.”

Meyer also highlighted that textbook spending represents only 27 percent of the spending budgeted 10 years ago.

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