State lawmakers began digging into the details of Governor Pat McCrory’s budget today as did state agencies, lobbyists and, reporters too. McCrory plans to pay for raises for all state employees in part by cutting funds to the UNC system. But his budget includes plenty of other cuts and additions large and small. WFAE’s Lisa Miller joined Mark Rumsey to discuss some of them.
Mark Rumsey: Lisa, what exactly are those cuts to the UNC system?
Lisa Miller: McCrory wants eleven schools in the UNC system, including UNC Charlotte, to cut 2 percent from their budgets. They can cut anywhere except financial aid. UNC President Tom Ross says this will make it harder for UNC campuses to recruit and retain the best faculty. He points out the state spends nearly $1,000 less per student than it did in 2008. Now, McCrory also wants to reduce spending on what are called centers and institutes within the UNC system. They often conduct research in a specific field or serve as a ground for multi-disciplinary work. UNC Charlotte and Chapel Hill have a number of these. For example, At UNC Charlotte, there’s the Urban Institute and the Institute for Social Capital. McCrory hasn’t pinpointed the ones for the cuts. He just mentions the reductions should come from those not involved in degree production or not central to the educational mission of the university.
MR: That’s an interesting way to phrase it.
LM: It is and certainly open to interpretation. Also, something you hear from the governor a lot is better aligning higher education with the needs of the business community, basically preparing students for the jobs that are out there. On the community college front, he’s wants to include about $18 million for health care and technical education programs. This is what he said yesterday about that:
Pat McCrory: This will encourage our community college presidents to invest in those courses that are, yes, high cost and graduate fewer students, but have a great deal of success in placing those students in employment, which is our goal.
LM: And the budget also includes money at the university-level to, as the proposal says, transition research from the lab to the marketplace.
MR: Now, the Governor’s budget would cut the Department of Health and Human Services budget by a lot. Where would those reductions come from?
LM: Yes, it would cut it by $122 million. Now, the Governor would probably call much of this "savings" as opposed to "cuts." For example, what the proposal would do is take some federal grant money to pay for existing health and human services program. But that means that federal money isn’t available to expand other programs. Plus, it would shift more Medicaid costs on to hospitals and mental health organizations. Our reporter Michael Tomsic checked into that today. He found they would have to pay the state an extra $75 million next year because of this. State Budget Director Art Pope says this falls well within the federal Medicaid guidelines. But you can bet hospitals and mental health groups will have something to say about this.
MR: What other items stand out to you in this budget?
LM: Well, it includes money to re-establish the state’s drug treatment courts. These had been around for several years, but the General Assembly decided not to fund them for the past two years. It also includes funds to help repair the hull of the Battleship North Carolina and operate Tryon Palace.