RALEIGH — “It’s petty, y’all” was how Sen. Don Davis, D-Pitt, described part of the state Senate’s budget proposal last week.
He’s right, but it didn’t have to be that way. Senate leaders rolled out their two-year spending plan in a news conference Tuesday, highlighting strong proposals to give state employees a 5 percent raise, give veteran teachers a $1,000 bonus, expand rural broadband internet access and cut taxes for individuals and businesses.
But the news conference was deliberately held before the actual budget documents were made public. Reporters can’t ask good questions about a plan they haven’t seen, so it took another day for the more controversial hidden budget provisions to emerge. And when they did, tax cuts and education funding were buried under the more eye-popping headlines.
One revenge provision would target Eastern North Carolina’s largest healthcare provider, Vidant Health. Lawmakers are currently in a dispute with Vidant and Pitt County leaders over whether the UNC Board of Governors should have seats on Vidant’s governing board.
Because senators are mad that they won’t have seats on the board — and perhaps because Vidant’s CEO is a vocal supporter of Medicaid expansion — a budget provision would cut $35 million from Vidant’s Medicaid reimbursement. Lawmakers are also considering revoking Vidant’s status as the teaching hospital for East Carolina University’s medical school and instead spending your tax dollars to build a whole new teaching hospital in Greenville.Continue reading...