Friday, September 18, 2015

Press Release: Rep. Jon Hardister Presides Over House During Budget Debate

For Immediate Release

September 18, 2015

Raleigh, NC - Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford) presided over session on the House floor for nearly an hour during debate on the 2015 Appropriations Act on Thursday, September 17, 2015. This marks the first time in which Hardister has presided over session in the House.

"It was an honor to preside over the House during debate on the budget," Hardister said. "It was a great experience and I am humbled by the opportunity."

This was the first time in at least five years in which a member from Guilford County has presided over the House. 

Rep. Jon Hardister


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

NC House Update - September 2015

State Budget Extension

The General Assembly passed a Continuing Resolution to extend the budget discussions through September 18th. This means that we are running off of last year's budget while we work to reach an agreement for the current fiscal year. Not only does the Continuing Resolution keep us running on last year's budget (there is no government shutdown), it contained an increase in education funding (to account for growth in enrollment) and a six percent increase in starting pay for teachers.

The state budget is due each year on July 1st. If the budget is not done in time, then the General Assembly can pass a resolution to delay the deadline. Historically, it is not uncommon for the budget deadline to be extended. This is the longest that we have been overdue in more than 10 years, but there have been times when the General Assembly did not complete a budget until November or December.

At this point, we are still engaged in discussions between the House and Senate to reconcile differences in the state budget. Although we have yet to reach an agreement, I believe we are very close to doing so. I am cautiously optimistic that we will reach an agreement within the next few days.

Conferring with Rep. Jay Adams on the House floor before session.

Protecting Child Identity

It is my honor to be a primary sponsor of HB 607 - Allow Protected Consumer Security Freezes - which was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory last month. The bill, which passed both the House and Senate unanimously, allows parents to freeze their child's credit in order to prevent identify theft, which has become a serious problem for children. The same protections will be allowed for disabled adults who have a legal guardian.

With Rep. Graig Meyer at a press conference on HB 607.

Regulatory Reform Bill Advances

It is my honor to be the lead sponsor of HB 651 - Appraisal Board Record Keeping & Background Checks - which provides regulatory relief for small businesses and independent contractors in the real estate appraisal industry. The bill passed with strong support in both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory.

Attending a bill signing with Governor Pat McCrory.

Facts About Public Education Funding

There has been misinformation in the media about state spending on public education. Some people have claimed that the legislature has cut the education budget and reduced spending on public schools, which simply isn't true. We spend 55.9 percent of our state budget on education with an increase of nearly $1.2 billion over the last four years.

Last week I wrote a guest editorial in the Rhino Times to explain what the facts are related to education spending. Click on the link below to see my editorial, which includes graphs to help explain how revenue is spent:

Other Issues Under Consideration

Aside from the state budget, there are a few other issues that may or may not be taken up before we adjourn the 2015 legislative session. These issues include Medicaid reform; the Connect NC Bond; economic incentives; and changes in the local sales tax distribution formula. As of now, it is uncertain as to whether we will vote on these topics this year or wait until next year's legislative session.

2016 Presidential Race

There has been a lot of focus lately on the Republican presidential primary. Personally, I believe we have a strong field of contenders on the Republican side. It will be fascinating to see what happens in the race over the next few months.

We need a president who is willing to work hard and remain dedicated to solving the major problems that are facing our nation, such as the national debt, excessive regulations, and a frivolous tax code.

On the Democratic side, it looks like Hillary Clinton is in trouble. She is under investigation for misuse of her private email server while she was Secretary of State, which has become a serious liability for her campaign. As of now, it seems likely that Vice President Joe Biden will enter the race. Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, has been gaining traction in some of the early primary states.

Move Presidential Primaries to March 15th?

There has been an effort in the legislature to move the presidential primary in North Carolina to March 15th, which will allow our citizens to have more input in the presidential primary process (it would be in effect for the 2016 elections). The bill that would make these changes is currently in conference committee between the House and Senate. The major question is if the regular primaries (congressional, state and local offices) will remain in May, or be moved up to join the presidential primaries in March.

Happy Labor Day

Here's hoping that you and your family had a happy and safe Labor Day. I hope you had a fun and relaxing holiday!

More Updates Soon

That's it for now. I will provide more updates in the near future. As always, please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments.

Quote to Remember

"You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it."
- Margaret Thatcher

Rep. Jon Hardister

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Public Education Funding: What's The Truth?

There has been a fair amount of misinformation in the media about public education policy in North Carolina. Honest disagreement on policy is good and should be welcomed by everyone. But false, baseless attacks are unfair to our citizens.

Case in point: The editorial column published in the News & Record on Sunday, August 23, “The War on Public Education,” by James Hogan, a former teacher.

In this piece, Mr. Hogan asserted that public education spending comprises only one-third of the state budget. He said, “Public education, including higher education, consumes about a third of North Carolina’s budget.” Not only is this statement inaccurate, it is irresponsible.

The truth is that public education comprises 55.9 percent of the state budget. That breaks down to 38.5 percent being allocated to K-12 education with the rest going to community colleges and the UNC system. Either Mr. Hogan didn’t do his homework on the state budget, or he is deliberately misleading the public.

Despite this and other inaccuracies, Mr. Hogan’s column received widespread coverage. In addition to the News & Record, it was also published in the Washington Post and on several popular education websites. It is unfortunate that the misinformation in this article was not corrected before it proliferated in the media.

To their credit, the News & Record ran a correction in the Tuesday, August 25 edition of the paper.

The overarching problem is that the public has a right to know what the facts are, especially as it relates to how their tax dollars are spent. It is perfectly fine to disagree on policy decisions, but it is wrong to spread false information in order to promote a point of view.

Not only did Mr. Hogan’s article contain false information on the state budget, it was full of sensational claims that are not based in reality. He accused the state legislature of embarking on a “war against public education” and “taking aim at teachers.” Statements like that are irresponsible and inflammatory.

Here are a few important facts related to public education in North Carolina:
  • There are three sources of funding for public education – federal, state and local. When it comes to education funding as a percentage of the state budget, North Carolina ranks among the highest in the nation. In most other states, local governments fund education at a higher level than they do in North Carolina. As mentioned earlier, over half of our state budget is allocated to public education.
  • The former Democratic majority in North Carolina cut the education budget in fiscal years 2009-2010 and 2010-2011. Republicans took control of the legislature in 2011 and we have increased education spending every year since. In fact, education spending has increased by over $1.2 billion since Republicans took the majority in North Carolina.
  • The legislature provided teachers with a pay increase in 2014 and reinstated teacher pay steps, which were frozen by Democrats in 2009. Starting pay for teachers was increased by 7 percent in 2014 with another 6 percent increase planned for this year. Our long-term goal is for teachers in North Carolina to be among the best paid in the nation.
When you consider these facts, it is irrational to conclude that there is a “war on public education.” If that were the case, would we spend over half of the state budget on education and increase funding several years in a row? That would make no sense whatsoever.

The real war on education is when people like Mr. Hogan make false, outlandish claims, such as accusing the state legislature of cutting “budgets to the bone” and “dealing a devastating blow to public school.” Such statements do nothing but create confusion and make it difficult to have a serious conversation.

Our legislative leadership and Gov. Pat McCrory care deeply about public education, and we are committed to building and maintaining a strong education system. It is unfortunate that our political detractors often resort to attacks, misinformation and scare tactics in order to promote their political agenda. Our citizens deserve better than that.

Note: Below I have provided charts that support the information in this article.

This chart shows where the public education budget was cut in FY 2009-10 and FY 2010-11 (when Democrats were in the majority), but has increased every year since.

This pie graph, which was created by the NC General Assembly's Fiscal Research Division, confirms that education spending comprises 55.9 percent of the state budget.

The chart below, which came from NC DPI, shows that 62.1 percent of education funds come from the state. Note that North Carolina ranks 9th in the nation for education spending as a percentage of the state budget. This is down from 5th, but still very respectable.

Finally, the graph below shows where teacher pay was raised in 2014 along with the reinstating of a pay step system. Starting pay was increased from $30,800 to $33,000 (a seven percent increase) but this year it will be increased to $35,000 (which is an additional six percent increase). This is just the start; our goal is to continue increasing teacher pay until we have among the best paid teachers in the nation.