After weeks of negotiations, Republicans in the General Assembly announced the details of their $23 billion budget agreement Monday, outlining plans to increase teacher pay and slash taxes by a projected $530 million.
An oft-cited provision in the GOP budget would raise teacher pay by an average of 3.3 percent and give other state employees a flat $1,000 bonus. The budget would also make a series of tax cuts effective in 2019: lowering the corporate income tax rate from 3 to 2.5 percent, reducing the personal income tax rate from 5.499 to 5.25 percent, and decreasing the franchise tax on small businesses.
Critics argue that the state is sacrificing much-needed investments—not just in schools but also in infrastructure and economic development—at the altar of tax relief for the wealthy. Republicans see recent budget surpluses as evidence that their philosophy is working, so there's no need to change course.
While lawmakers are more than happy to talk about tax breaks and teacher salaries, one subject has gotten less attention: abortion. More specifically, two abortion-related budget decisions: funding for abortion providers and crisis pregnancy centers. Early budget drafts included provisions that would prohibit state funding for "any provider that performs abortions," including hospitals. Others sought to funnel additional money to CPCs.
The prohibition on abortion providers ultimately got the ax, but budget writers did see fit to award $2.6 million over the next two fiscal years to Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship, a nonprofit network for CPCs in the state. As Carolina Pregnancy Care Fellowship's website makes clear, the organization is in the business of dissuading women from getting abortions.
CPCF's services have been supported by taxpayers since 2013, says Tara Romano, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, when the budget allocated $250,000 for the nonprofit over two years. In 2015, that amount jumped to $300,000 a year. But that's significantly less than the $1.3 million allocated in this year's budget—along with another $1.3 million the following year—an amount Romano was shocked to see.
"That big jump was really a surprise," she says. "With CPCs, there just doesn't seem to be much oversight with how it's spent. And for them to increase it so much, this is really concerning to us. It's disturbing that they are giving out so much money without having any real oversight."
A call to CPCF was not returned by press time Tuesday. The legislature is expected to approve the budget later this week.