Education cuts result of expiring stimulus money, not budget, N.C. Real Solutions says
N.C. Real Solutions, a conservative group traveling the Coastal Plain to acquaint the public with the details of the Republican-crafted state budget, stopped in Kinston on Tuesday with its mobile billboard truck.
The group, formed by Americans for Prosperity and the John William Pope Civitas Institute, also made stops in Rocky Mount, Goldsboro, Greenville, New Bern and Morehead City on Tuesday as part of a region-wide tour held in conjunction with a 30-second TV ad the group recently launched to tout the GOP’s spending cuts and lower taxes.
Dallas Woodhouse, state director for Americans for Prosperity, led Tuesday’s public awareness campaign to counter claims the new budget has devastated education. He argued the new budget lowered state taxes, returned $2 billion to the state deficit and added state-funded teachers.
“It’s our perspective the taxpayers in Kinston are better off having money returned to them rather than continuing the sales and income tax hikes,” Woodhouse told Kinston’s Mayor B.J. Murphy during a meeting outside the Lenoir County Courthouse at 1 p.m.
Woodhouse shared with Murphy a “fact check” compiled by Real Solutions, which showed that around 900 teachers lost their jobs last year not because of state budget cuts, but because of the expiration of the federal stimulus package.
Woodhouse added the budget allowed temporary sales, income and corporate tax increases to expire in 2011. If those taxes had continued, it would have cost taxpayers over $2 billion over the course of the two-year budget, according to information submitted by the N.C. Real Solutions.
“A lot of people have a lot of misnomers about what actually happened during the budget process,” Murphy, a Republican, said in praising the awareness being generated by the Real Solutions tour.
“You have Republicans — who control the House and Senate — saying one thing, the governor and all of her aides involved saying another thing and I like what this project has done to lay the facts of the budget’s impact on the table.”
Citing state data, Democrats argue the budget damaged public education by needlessly eliminating more than 12,000 positions throughout state government and public education. About half came from local school districts mostly and involved teachers, teacher assistants and staff employees such as custodians.
According to the State Board of Education, total public school employees funded by the state grew by over 4,600 positions from the 2010-11 to the 2011-12 school years. However 7,000 positions — which included service workers, technicians, skilled craft workers, unskilled laborers and clerical employees — were eliminated due to the loss of federal funds.
This number included over 2,400 teachers, of which the state absorbed funding for over 2,000, allowing them to retain their positions.
“Going forward, places like Lenoir County and Kinston — where people are struggling to put gas in their car and food on their table — are going to be critical in this long, new debate over whether we go the old route of raising taxes whenever we do not have as much money as we like or we change the way we handle business,” Woodhouse said.
Wesley Brown can be reached at 252-559-1075 or firstname.lastname@example.org.