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Lawmakers respond to New York Times editorial criticizing NC

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

An editorial by the New York Times published Tuesday is prompting response from members of North Carolina's elected officials.

The piece, titled "The Decline of North Carolina," notes changes the state government has made since Republicans gained control of both the executive and legislative branches for the first time since Reconstruction.

Gov. Pat McCrory's released a statement Wednesday in response to the piece, saying the editorial is "riddled with errors."

"Maybe if they came to North Carolina, they would understand that Gov. McCrory remains 100 percent focused on the economy, education and government efficiency as he has been for the first six months in office," the statement reads.

One particular section of the editorial claims changes to federal unemployment benefits is "the cruelest decision by lawmakers."

"The cruelest decision by lawmakers went into effect last week: ending federal unemployment benefits for 70,000 residents," the editorial reads.

McCrory's office disputed the section, explaining that the "final week of checks to the long-term unemployed was exacty 65,239 people not 70,000."

"Another 100,000 will lose their checks in few months makes the assumption that people will not look for work or accept a job until their benefits run out," McCrory's office said. "That statistic is not supported anywhere in our state unemployment division or commerce department."

Dr. June Atkinson, who is quoted in the article, responded to the New York Times' claim that "the state is also making it harder for future generations of workers to get jobs, cutting back sharply on spending for public schools."

"I feel extremely sad because our state has made so much progress in public education in the last decade, or even in the last 20 years. It worries me and saddens me that North Carolina would go in the opposite direction of progress," Atkinson said.

The editorial further claims the state is "spending less on schools now than it did in 2007, ranking 46th in the nation in per-capita education dollars. Teacher pay is falling, 10,000 prekindergarten slots are scheduled to be removed, and even services to disabled children are being chopped."

However McCrory's office disputes the observation, saying "a budget hasn't been passed yet, so how is the governor 'cutting back sharply on spending for public schools?' If you look at the governor's budget recommendations, it actually does the opposite."

Responding to the editorial, Rep. Tim Moore, of Cleveland County, says the changes lawmakers have made have brought the state "back to moderate, middle of the road."

"We've rolled back some laws that were put on place when the state was under much more liberal government," Moore said. "We've now come back to moderate, middle of the road, common-sense approach to make this state more business friendly and more responsible when it comes to criminal justice issues."

N.C. Chamber's Vice President of Government Affairs Gary Salamido also released the following statement:

"North Carolina is growing rapidly while experiencing one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country and there have definitely been growing pains.  However, it is not appropriate to describe where we are as a state with rhetoric.  We welcome the opportunity to engage in honest dialogue and facts.

There is a lot of misinformation out there about North Carolina's unemployment insurance reform, here are a few facts.  Prior to reforming our system, the only two states in worse predicaments than North Carolina were California and New York.  The solution offered by the business community provides North Carolinians with a system that will be solvent and affordable for the long term.  A contributing factor to this crisis was the combination of increased benefits and decreased taxes, the reform requires increased employer taxes and puts benefits in line with neighboring states.  It has safeguards in place to make sure that these funds will be available for North Carolinians who need them in the future.

The loss of the extended benefits is a federal decision.  North Carolina tried working with its congressional delegation to be granted a waiver to the non-reduction provision, as has been granted to other states (AR, RI, PA and IN). This would allow these 70,000 people to maintain their EUC benefits while making the important reforms included in House Bill 4. Unfortunately, the federal government has tied our state's hands by not granting this waiver.  It is a shame North Carolina is now in this position."

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