LAURINBURG — All three members of the Scotland County legislative delegation agree: It’s time to get out of Raleigh.
State Reps. Ken Goodman and Garland Pierce spoke alongside Sen. Tom McInnis during a legislative briefing Friday morning at Laurinburg Presbyterian Church hosted by the Laurinburg-Scotland County Chamber of Commerce.
A budget increase is necessary is so that every school can have the resources to educate children, lawmakers said, but staying in Raleigh and delaying a budget vote is doing more harm than good. North Carolina lawmakers have missed the deadline to pass a budget by eight weeks. According to published reports, it costs the state an extra $42,000 for every day the legislature meets and there is still no firm budget in place for the next fiscal year.
McInnis, a Republican from Richmond County, said he would like to see a digital device in front of every child in school.
“The 21st century commands and demands a 21st-century education,” said McInnis. “We cannot do it without the proper resources and we’ve got 45 to 50 counties in North Carolina that suffer that affliction.”
Pierce, a Wagram Democrat, spoke about education and the vital role in plays in Scotland County. Because of the budget uncertainty, many school districts are unsure of how to budget for the coming year as students return to school, since they are unclear about what money will be coming from the state.
“The budget process helps local communities particularly our schools, that’s my No. 1 concern,” said Pierce, a sixth term lawmaker. “Education is our No. 1 priority in any community, it funds a lot of things in the community and most of all helps our students, but it’s a big effect on the community when the schools are not in the positions to have what they need to operate.”
Legislators hoped to pass a budget by the beginning of the 2015-16 fiscal year on July 1, but have instead enacted stopgap spending plans that continue 2014-15 budget allocations. Lawmakers hope to pass a new budget by mid-September.
“The biggest thing that’s out there right now is the budget and people keep asking me why don’t we have a budget,” said Goodman, a Richmond County Democrat. “Well, the fact is we have three budgets.”
The governor, the House and the Senate have advanced separate spending plans. Many Republican lawmakers argue the tight budget is a way to reduce waste and increase productivity with available resources.
“We have deep philosophical differences about the priorities and that’s what we need to work out,” Goodman said.
The legislation has to decide where the priorities are and where state funds will be allocated.
“We need to get out of Raleigh — we have spent a lot of your tax money,” Goodman said. “We have spent a million dollars in keeping the General Assembly session since July 1.
“We need to get it done, we need to come home.”
In regards to the loss of money, there could be bigger problems for Scotland County.
“We cannot afford to lose that type of money,” Pierce said. “It’s going to have a trickle-down effect and we’re going to lose jobs.”
Local lawmakers said a budget that can pass the House and Senate should be completed soon.
“The longer we stay in Raleigh, ladies and gentlemen, the more mischief happens in Raleigh,” Pierce said.
Abby Hackmann can me reached at 910-506-3171.