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The Voice - February 6, 2015

2015 Legislative Session Underway


The 2015 Long Session of the NC General Assembly began on Wednesday, January 28, 2015. Leaders from both parties face challenges and opportunities with the session underway. New leadership in the state House will likely affect working relationships with the Senate, as well as the governor. A potential revenue shortfall of $200 million, to date, will complicate state budget development and put child care programs - among others - at risk.  NCLCCA has already begun talking to state legislators about issues important to licensed child care providers, including funding for NC Pre-K and Subsidy.

 

New Leadership Team Takes Over NC House


With the November elections in the rear-view mirror, Republicans retained control of both chambers of the state legislature.  Governor Pat McCrory and Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) will be working with a new House Speaker in Representative Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), who was elected by his Republican colleagues after former House Speaker Thom Tillis won his race for a US Senate seat. With the election of a new speaker comes a new leadership team with new staff and different legislators in charge of policy committees, including budget committees, as indicated in the links below.

Senate Standing Committee Appointments
House Standing Committee Assignments

 

Revenue Shortfall Increases Pressure on Budget-Writers


Currently, state revenue collections are coming in about $200 million lower than projected for this year. So far state leaders have not sounded any alarm bells, saying that it is too early to tell whether revenue will fall short or catch up by spring. They have also said that $200 million is minimal compared to shortfalls they have dealt with in the past, and that they’re prepared with money set aside if they have to use it to plug a budget hole. There is little doubt, however, that such a shortfall would place increased pressure on state budget writers as they address the need for increased spending in a number of areas, including education.

Enrollment growth in public schools, universities and community colleges is always a budget driver, and legislative leaders have already been talking publicly about the need to fund pay raises for teachers and other state employees. There has also been talk among key lawmakers about much-needed funding for the strained Courts system and a push from the business community and governor for new funding for transportation infrastructure. Add to the list a desire among key legislative leaders to continue to lower some state taxes and it is increasingly difficult to figure out where budget-writers will find the necessary dollars to do it all.

When it comes to sustaining child care and early education programs, roughly $5 million in funding for NC Pre-K last year was “non-recurring,” which means it was for one-year only. It will have to be authorized by budget writers again this year to prevent NC Pre-K cuts and lost slots for children and providers.  
A lot of what happens in North Carolina with the Subsidy program will depend on what happens at the federal level, in Washington, D.C. since much of the funding comes from the federal government.

 

NCLCCA has already been talking to key state legislators about harmful Subsidy eligibility changes made last year, asking them to address the negative consequences during this year’s session, but state legislators need to hear directly from providers in their districts. Keep an eye out for future NCLCCA emails to help you connect with your members of the House and Senate to make sure they know how child care funding impacts families in their own backyards.

 

Please also come to the NCLCCA Government Affairs Forum on Feb. 24, for important issue updates, an opportunity to get your questions answered, and a tour of the Legislative Building where we will visit with legislators together in groups.

 

House Speaker on After-School Care


In a speech outlining his priorities for the 2015 legislative session, new House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) called for more after-school care for children and youth, suggesting public-private partnerships with organizations such as the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club of North Carolina and Big Brothers Big Sisters to address the issue. A news article quoted the Speaker as saying, "A lot of our youth, sometimes it's that period between the end of school and when a parent or some other caretaker gets home that either good things can happen or a lot of bad things can happen." 

Speaker’s Moore’s statement presents both challenges and opportunities for licensed child care providers. His recognition of the importance of after-school care outside of the home for North Carolina children is positive and opens the door to providers for discussions with him and his staff about after-school services they offer and actions that could be taken to increase access to them. On the other hand, the speaker’s quote shows that he connects after-school care services with non-profit organizations other than licensed child care providers, which points to a need for providers – particularly those in Cleveland County, which he represents – to share information and experiences with him about their own after-school care services. If you are a provider in Cleveland County, or know one, let us know!

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