- [Kelly] Senate Republicans release their vision of a state budget bill.
This as all legislative Republicans join and override governor Cooper's veto of GOP backed abortion legislation.
This is State Lines.
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[regal music] ♪ - Welcome back to State Lines folks.
I'm Kelly McCullen.
Joining me today, political strategist, Morgan Jackson.
Representative Matthew Winslow of Franklin and Grandville County, he's got on both in there, Matthew.
Anna Beavon Gravely of NC Free, and representative Brandon Lofton who made the drive in for Mecklenburg County.
You win the mileage award today, sir.
- Thank you.
- Hey, not a bad week if you watch politics, gang.
Can we start with the Senate budget?
- Sure let's do.
- Let's do it.
Anna Beavon, I'm gonna ask you about this one because Republicans in the Senate have now answered the house budget writers with their own spending bill, passed it this week.
The Senate passed bill would accelerate the income tax cuts.
It would give state workers and teachers lower pay raises than the house budget proposes.
Also contains a lot of policy.
One could allow UNC health and maybe East Carolina to get in with the struggling rural hospitals among a lot of other policy that could be in this Senate budget.
That doesn't do it justice, Anna Beavon, tell me about the Senate budget.
- Yeah, broad topic here.
But I think what you said just a second ago about how there's a lot of policy in it.
That's the big takeaway that I'm having from this.
We have, this is not the only time this has happened but it's becoming a larger trend that we're seeing specific pieces of policy in the state budget, whether it's from the Senate or from the House.
And I think this budget also telegraphed some of the horse trading that's gonna take place once we get to conference committee.
The differences between the House and the Senate budget, though they're there, I think it's gonna be a little easier to find compromise.
- Representative Lofton, what do, your take on the Senate budget, not your team over there yet but there's gonna be a negotiation, 30 billion dollars?
It's not chump change.
- It's not, but I'm hoping that in conference they come back with a better budget.
This budget accelerates some of the revenue reductions and also will cost us, I think, about $6 billion over the next five years in terms of reduced revenue.
This is at a time where the latest revenue forecast shows that we're roughly flat year over year, not keeping up with inflation.
And we have great challenges facing our kids right now with teacher shortages and other needs of our state.
So I'm hoping we can craft a budget to better invest in our people.
- Morgan, you advised the governor, I think he wanted 33 billion.
This could be 30.9 at the end of next year.
What's the difference in 3 billion among friends?
- It's a lot when you're cutting 6 billion dollars worth of tax taxes out of a budget.
Listen, Kelly, the the key thing about budget is budgets are about priorities, right?
They're priority documents.
The house has laid out their priorities.
The governor laid out his priorities.
The Senate's been very clear what their priorities are here.
When you look at education, which is one of the chief drivers of economic opportunity in our state, this budget fails North Carolina's children.
What you end up doing is transferring over a billion dollars from public education to unaccountable private schools.
You end up in a place, and Representative Lofton just talked about it is look at the the raises that were proposed by the House for teachers.
Look at the raises proposed by the Governors.
This budget fails teachers and it fails public education.
And 4.5% over two years, that's barely over 2% a year.
If you are a teacher that has got over 15 years of experience, you're talking about a $5 a week raise, that's disrespectful.
It's a slap in the face to teachers.
When we are experiencing serious vacancies in public schools, with teachers, with bus drivers with other things, this budget fails them.
And at the same time, you're cutting all these taxes that the large majority of 'em go to very wealthy people.
That for families and for North Carolina's education, this budget fails.
- Representative Winslow, coming from the Republican side.
Certainly not a Senator, at least not yet, but now we have a House budget.
We have a Senate budget.
Your take on the first look at the Senate budget heading into a negotiation?
- Well of course the better budget always comes outta the House, of course.
But one thing I do really, one thing I picked on very quickly was we put 50 million in the NC Innovation grants, right?
And the Senate took it and said we'll take your 50 million and we'll make it 1.4 billion dollars.
I really am excited about that because it's pressing the gas on economic development in North Carolina.
When we allow the free market to get in the middle of it and really try to drive, we're talking about taxes, we're talking about jobs and the different benefits that come along with it.
So I'm really impressed that they moved that to 1.4 billion dollars.
- And overall, you like the Senate budget?
the tweets and the Facebook posts and all, it's very fatal whether you're Republican or a Dem, it's the greatest thing in the world or the worst thing in the world that's ever happened.
- Well there are some key things, I think you nailed it.
They've kind of set up for some negotiating but if you look at the core of it, about 90% of it stay the same as a House budget.
So there's not a whole lot to work on, which hopefully means that we're gonna get outta session here sometime in the next month or two.
- Well, I've always promised viewers, Anna Beavon, that if they wrote a thoughtful email and asked a good question, I would actually bring it on and print it out.
Here's one, it's Lee, she's a schoolteacher.
I'll put her out in the Charlotte area 'cause I mean, you know, let's have some confidentiality here.
She says she's got 25 years experience.
The House budget gives an across the board increase for the next two years.
Senate budget has the same dollar amounts, but the allocation is so different.
She says a teacher like herself, in the Senate budget would get less than one half of 1% of an increase, 20 bucks a month in year one than five more bucks a month in year two.
She goes, I've always ignored the allegations that the NC legislature, which that's not, doesn't say Republicans, it says 'em both, I guess in that reference, is trying to get rid of veteran teachers.
I'm now beginning to wonder.
Is that a fair beef?
- I think anytime you have teachers coming against any sort of budget the Republicans from a majority put out, there's gonna be a challenge.
And I think that the teacher shortage is not one that we are facing alone in North Carolina, it's a national trend.
and I think that's a fair concern to have.
But I think when you look at the accelerated personal income tax reduction being pushed in the Senate budget, teachers get tax cuts too.
So that benefits them as well.
- Okay, Representative Lofton, we've got inflation out there, we've got tax cuts coming and conservatives could say we're cutting your taxes, you're gonna get money back.
You're gonna keep more of what you earn.
You're just not gonna get a higher raise if you're a teacher.
- Look, I think I shared this the last time I was on the show.
I have two kids in public schools, both of them have dealt with, been personally impacted by this teacher shortage.
I was just at my kids' high school.
My ninth grader's trying to learn math without a teacher, and he literally sits in the classroom with other kids without a teacher in the room.
I went to go visit his school earlier this week.
I talked to a veteran teacher who was leaving in two weeks.
She had just given her notice because she cannot afford to stay in the classroom.
This is a huge problem, and, yes, other states are dealing with it, but we have the ability to do something about it, and we can do better in this budget.
- Yeah, Morgan, Steve wrote me.
Steve Moore just says he's a retiree, only 1% increase.
I haven't looked at this.
I'm trusting that these viewers have read the budget bill.
Retirees getting a 1% COLA.
Over two years, you're looking at a 12% inflation rate.
- Again, it doesn't meet it.
Look at the state employees.
You're talking about incredible vacancies with state employees.
You're talking about retirees.
None of this is keeping up with inflation.
And if you're going to run a business like the state of North Carolina is, you have to invest in your people, invest in your resources if you want it to work.
If you starve it, it will die.
And what the Republicans in the Senate are doing is trying to shrink government in a way by not paying veteran teachers, so that they slough off by not paying state employees, so that ultimately you get lower salaries with folks who don't have the experience.
That's not a smart way to run a business.
And at the end of the day, it's gonna catch up to us.
- Last word to you.
I feel like they're beating up on two Democrats in a row, but the Republican will get the last word, Matthew.
- They're doing a great job.
I'll let 'em hit us.
- Well, you know, inflation is a real thing.
- Yes it is.
- And that's independent.
That's a lot of Republican and Democratic federal policies have inflated this economy.
And when Senate budget writers put out numbers that don't clearly match inflation, what does it say?
What does it say for you as a Republican going back to those schools, or to any state?
- Well, one of the things I wanna talk about and very related to it is that maybe, across the board in all sectors, we do not have a workforce.
And so we need to find creative ways to bring people back to the workforce.
And one of the things I've been working on is retirees that can leave like we do with teachers, would leave for six months, come back, and basically double dip the system.
You still collect your retirement, but you can also be a state employee.
So we're encouraging those that have been in the workforce for the state that have the knowledge base and retirees to come back to work, so that we have a broader workforce.
- There you go.
The next big item that happened this week, Senate House Republicans joined forces and overrode Governor Roy Cooper's veto of the GOP abortion bill you might have heard of.
Elective abortions will be banned after 12 weeks, 20 weeks for rape and incest, and 24 weeks should fetal scans reveal some life-limiting complications for the fetus.
And these limits are paired with $160 million in state funding for a host of childcare, maternal care, and contraceptive services.
- The things in this bill are not obstacles to abortion.
We seek to balance protecting unborn babies while ensuring the safe care of mothers.
- The history of abortion underscores the reality that this procedure has always been with us, whether we like it or not, and whether or not it's legal.
It will continue to be here because abortion that is elective is because of an unintended pregnancy.
- Morgan, the governor used the bully pulpit.
He looked relatively well-branded.
I don't know if you had anything to do with that, but your take on this, why put that much energy and knowing there's 70, was it 71, 72 votes out there?
And it's gonna be hard to flip one.
- So listen, I think there were a number of Republicans who made commitments to their constituents that they would not decrease access to reproductive health, four in particular, that then voted against exactly what they said they would do, the promises they made their constituents, and it's important that you highlight that.
Listen, Republicans may have won the battle this week on this abortion ban, but they're gonna lose the war.
They clearly have not learned from what happened in 2022.
Voters are very, very clear.
They do not support abortion bans.
They do not support politicians making medical decisions for women, and they do not support it when you take away their rights.
This is an issue.
And listen, Republicans on the other side are very clear.
You heard Mark Robinson this week, lieutenant governor, as well as some of the sponsors in the Senate say this is the first step.
The next step is a heartbeat bill, and the next step is a total abortion ban.
I'm gonna tell you this right now.
Republicans will ruin the day that they move forward that this is not smart politically.
And at the end of the day, it's gonna help Democrats in 2024.
Republicans are not learning the lesson of 2022.
- Matthew, this man is going to do that to your candidates in 2024 with his candidates.
What do you say to conservative women out there?
12 weeks was a compromise within the GOP caucus, and apparently it was relatively well poll tested.
Not to put you on the spot, but as a policy, is this just one step along the way depending on who we elect in 2024?
- Well, I'd like to follow up what Morgan said is that I don't believe any ever Republicans side stepped or did anything different what they did on a campaign trail.
They did exactly what they said they were gonna do.
And when you poll the voters here in North Carolina, almost two thirds said a first trimester should not be allowed for abortion.
You know, anything else outside of that is what we went after.
- So after the first trimester, limits on abortion are accepted by most North Carolinans?
- Exactly, so two-thirds.
So they did exactly what they said they were gonna do for their voters.
The other thing is is that we didn't just stop there.
We also said we want to take care of the mothers and the children, which when you ask anyone who's had to go for an abortion, and you say, why do you feel like you need to do this?
Over 80% of 'em said either because of childcare, healthcare, transportation, workforce issues, and this bill puts $160 million towards those issues to help not only the mother and the child, but also those families.
- Anna Beavon, did the Republicans buy off that argument and get rid of it by including 160 million in maternal care, contraceptive care, and pairing it with an abortion restriction?
- I think that they made steps in that direction, certainly.
I think this legislation, though the criticism that Morgan shared of the legislation, was really thoughtfully approached.
The 12 week, bringing down from 28 to 12 weeks, puts North Carolina more in line with most of our neighboring states.
And so it helps with the far right social groups saying that this is not enough.
This is too far away from what we wanted at a heart week ban, heartbeat ban, sorry, words.
And so, I think this legislation being what it is and being the approach of the compromise from both the right and the left and not going as far as some of the bans have been in other states.
- Representative Lofton.
There's so much nuance in an abortion debate.
I don't see that when I see debates on the House floor, even the Senate floor with this.
It seems to be either/or, but it's much more complicated in this state.
What do you say to people?
Abortion is not banned in North Carolina, but it is limited to 12 weeks, and I even understand some of the debates were, you use the word "ban" and your point of order is being called against people in the Senate.
- I think the important thing to keep in mind is that, I would, I guess, take issue with saying it's a compromise.
It's certainly not a compromise between all parties involved, and it was a decision that was made less than 24 hours after the language was first introduced.
I mean, I've seen more deliberation on de-annexation bills for local bills where people can come up and have actual input into the process.
The North Carolina Medical Society came out against this bill.
We're making healthcare decisions without getting meaningful input from healthcare providers, without having hearings, without going through health committee, you're impacting people's lives, changing a law that's been in place since 1973.
To me, that's not a compromise, and that's not the way we should be legislating.
- Morgan, the legislators who voted in favor of these limits were elected by people who they believe support this type of policy.
However, it makes it a gubernatorial issue, which is a whole different calculus when you're casting a ballot.
Would legislators throw a Republican candidate to the wolves over abortion because of the local constituency that elects just in that one district?
Did I ask that question clearly?
No, you didn't, but I think I figured out.
[they chuckle] I think I've figured out what you're trying to say is, listen, here's what we see.
We see across the country in red states and blue states that voters reject abortion bans.
And when we talk about a compromise on 12 weeks there, if it was really about allowing abortions for the first trimester, you wouldn't put so many hurdles that would prevent access for women even in the 12 weeks.
Three different doctor's visits.
I mean, think if you had a sinus infection, you're going to go to the doctor three times before you're able to get a prescription?
Especially with a hard deadline on when these procedures can be performed.
But as I said earlier, voters are very clear.
Voters don't like these bans.
They don't like whatever the poll tested Republicans came up with.
It's going to bite them in the butt coming November 2024.
You got people like Mark Robinson who's going to be the candidate for governor, who says he wants a total abortion ban.
That is not where North Carolina voters are, and certainly not where North Carolina women are.
- I've got to get his campaign advisor on here.
I think this'll be a lot of fun.
Matthew, the optics of the governor coming into a local district and just pounding on your head over an issue, how would you handle that?
And did any of your colleagues that were called out, did they take the bait on that?
- I didn't see anything.
You know, you obviously saw it on the news and had a big rally when he did the veto.
Started early, spent the full what, eight, 9 days?
You know, he has before he has to veto or let it go into law and wait till the end, and use that time to do the messaging.
So smart on his part, but it didn't work.
Before we moved the bill, you know, of course we want to know, do we have the votes and does everyone understand, you know, what this bill does and where it's going to go?
And so we have 72 the whole time.
- Did it work?
Yeah, go ahead.
- I think the largest challenge that Democrats are going to have moving forward is keeping this issue alive at the same energy as the veto press conference that the governor held.
And I think that that was a challenge they had in 2022 moving through after the the Dobbs decision really holding that energy until the election.
And so we're way further out from 2024 than that decision was from the '22 election.
- All right, let's move to our public education.
Democrats often criticize we're not doing Democratic bills but this with super majorities, Republican bills are on the move and the State House approved a large expansion for publicly funded private school vouchers this week.
Could jump $300 million over the next two years, with families of every income level qualifying for some value a voucher.
State analysts have reported to lawmakers they expect thousands of students will take the deal, leave public school, and enter a private campus, and that would take funding from public education.
An identical senate bill was moving through that chamber.
And of course, again, both ideas seem to have those veto overriding majorities.
Representative Lofton, is this one you'll watch go through again?
I know that you've mentioned public education both times you've been on our show - Yeah, I think this bill is dangerous and it is a failure of our responsibility.
It's as you mentioned, $300 million in the first two years but eventually gets up to $520 million.
That's enough money to hire additional 7,000 teachers to help fill this gap that we have right now.
That's money we could be diverting towards the 1.4 million kids who are in public schools instead of diverting that money away from them and their education.
So I think we have a responsibility to those parents who have chosen public schools.
We have a responsibility to the kids who are in our classrooms and we're just not fulfilling, and instead choosing to divert this money.
- Over to Winslow, you're putting the funding on, what do they call on the back of the child, and letting him or her go, if this goes through and goes to the Senate.
- Well, we as a society get to choose everything we choose.
Our cars, our houses, where we want to shop, we go which grocery store, but the one thing we're not allowed to choose is where we send our kids to school.
It's based on your zip code.
It's based on where you're located, where you move to.
So you have people that are choosing schools based on their school districts.
So why do we need to focus on where we live to go to a good school or a school that is unique to our personal lives of our children?
One of the things that's comparative, I mean, our community colleges and our four year colleges are supplemented by public dollars.
And we can choose freely if I want to go to a private school or a public school, so why can't I do the same thing if I'm going to go from a K-12 education?
- Morgan, it is public funded.
It's funding a student, whether they go to your public school, or whether they go to a private school.
Is it public education?
- Yes, but here's the deal.
I mean, yes, you can choose a private school or a public school for higher ed, but you don't subsidize private schools with public dollars.
That's not a thing that you should be doing.
Listen, I think the whole discussion about school choice, the issue is not about choice here.
Yes, parents should have the ability to choose, but when you underfund where 80% of the kids go and start to over fund where 20% of the kids go, that's not a choice.
We have a constitutional obligation to provide the best public schools that we can.
These are neighborhood public schools.
And while you would not try to fund, instead of starve those public schools in sending, and let's remember a lot of these schools, the private schools, they don't have the accountability that the public schools do.
They don't have the transparency and they can deny any kid entry for any reason because they don't have the same regulations that the public schools do.
How is that right and how is that fair?
We should not be subsidizing wealthy kids going to private schools by taking money out of the public schools.
It's just wrong for our society.
- What about subsidizing low income kids to go to wealthy kids' schools?
- Listen, I think there's an argument for that and that has worked, but the fact, this bill gets rid of income limits, so you can make millions of dollars a year and get subsidies to send your kids to wealthy private schools.
That makes no sense.
Why you would do that to take money and you're taking money directly out of your neighborhood public schools in order to subsidize kids going to private schools.
That's not right.
Why not fix the public schools and invest in the public schools?
Hire more teachers, invest more in per pupil spending and class size instead of starving what you say is not working, feed what's not working and fix it.
- Let's pitch over to Anna Beavon, FreeEnterprise Foundation.
- Market competition with public dollars in an industry that's not as apt to rely on market forces.
How does this work if this goes through?
We're talking about half a billion dollars next decade.
- Yeah, I think we have past experience to show how successful it is and how, and to call it a true subsidy I think is not necessarily the fairest way to talk about it.
Parents are paying tax dollars and so they're merely being able to take the tax dollars to go to the school where their kid is going.
And allowing parents the opportunity to be able to pick what fits best for their kid overwhelmingly is popular.
And I think Covid has put a new light on that.
And where parents are watching their kids, you're watching your children.
Like it's an opportunity for parents to be more involved.
And I think when we talk about what this looks like, it's not every family at every income level is having the same amount of access.
So top tier families are receiving 45% of per pupil spending.
And when we're talking about per pupil spending, it's like a little over $10,000 for state and local and a little over $11,000 if you include federal spending on education and so I think this is an excellent opportunity to enter in some challenge in this marketplace.
- All right, well, let's go to our final topic.
Let's, we wanna put odds on a voucher bill but we can talk about sports betting.
Senate Republican leaders say they expect that that house bill or legalized sports betting could be heard as early as next week.
It failed a State House vote by just one vote.
Last year, a new casino opened up in Danville, Virginia this week, it's 40,000 glorious square feet, open 24/7 with slot machines and live tables and Matthew Winslow sports betting.
There was a time in my childhood when a toll road, a casino, and if you rolled a joint in North Carolina the world would end [panelists laughing] and it's starting to fall apart.
- Betting and Republicans being behind it.
What has happened?
- Well, it, so you mentioned, so since the movement on the bill, they're gonna make some tweaks and send it back to us.
I'm thinking they're adding horse racing, which I think would be encouraging North Carolina to have horse racing.
I would like to see that.
But it, you know, the question you're always gonna ask is what problem are you solving?
Back in the day, you're talking about, if you ever mentioned those things it was long before technology ever existed.
And here in North Carolina now, technology is what's ruling the betting area when it comes to sports.
When you look across a line, you have, you have illegal betting happening on your cell phones, on computers and everything else.
And what's happening is is that we are missing out on a 10 billion dollar industry.
And so the users are already there, they're already out betting, they're already using the technology that's there and North Carolina needs to come into the 21st century.
- All right, Representative Lofton, I'll give you sense, we started with the public go to you, your ideas on betting, I've seen Democrats love betting and some join Conservatives and go, "Oh, poor folks are gonna suffer."
- Yeah, I take the the views similar to what Representative Winslow said which is that this is happening.
35 other states have authorized this.
It needs to be regulated.
It's important to the local economy, obviously in Charlotte with our sports teams as well.
So I support it and look forward to seeing what comes out of the Senate.
- I got 30 seconds, Morgan, your thoughts on that?
From the governor's office, I haven't heard much on the sports betting bill, what?
- The governor's gonna support sports betting.
Listen, I placed the bet before we came on this show whether or not you were the moderator today.
[panelists laughing] So it's- - [Kelly] It's a good bet.
- Good news I had 10 to one odds.
- [Anna] Good educated guess.
- That's exactly right.
No, look, I think sports betting's coming, I think everybody's made great points and it's reality.
It's, we gotta keep up with the marketplace.
And I think, you know, you mentioned the casino in Danville, there's a real discussion about bringing gaming districts in North Carolina because you saw in the casino in Danville, everybody who walked in that casino was a North Carolina resident on day one spending North Carolina tax dollars and giving 'em to Virginia.
- You got 10 seconds.
- My next question, excellent points by all of you.
The next thing I wanna know is what is it gonna mean for college sports?
We're a huge college sport state and so what's that gonna look like?
- Well, we're out of time.
Thanks to our panelists for joining us.
Email your thoughts and opinions at email@example.com.
I read the emails, folks.
I'm Kelly McCullen, thank you so much for watching.
We'll see you next week.
[bright upbeat music] ♪ - [Narrator] Quality public television is made possible through the financial contributions of viewers like you, who invite you to join them in supporting PBS NC.