Joe Sam Queen’s, Raleigh Report – January 31

Broadband Advances.    As the leader of the Broadband Caucus, I can report major progress for our state. In 2019 we were able to triple the GREAT Grant funding from $10 million to $30 million, with multiple grants heading to Western North Carolina, two of these grants were awarded to Jackson and Swain counties, they total $233,645 and $179,153 respectively and are expected to bring high-speed internet to over 900 homes. Moving forward I will continue to work toward closing the coverage gap and providing high-speed internet to all North Carolinians.

Gerrymandering is Unconstitutional.    Our Courts have stepped up and declared Gerrymandering unconstitutional. These next elections will be the fairest in the decade. Our 11th congressional district is competitive again.

Similarly, our voter ID laws are being reviewed by the court to assure all our citizens’ rights to vote are protected.

The Governor’s Veto is Sustained.   The Governor’s Veto has been sustained in spite of Speaker Moore’s ambush on the House Democrats on 9/11 last year. The North Carolina Senate Democrats held firm and once Senate Pro-Tem Phil Burger allowed a vote, they sustained the Governor’s Veto on January 13th.

Opportunity Knocks.   Now the way is cleared for options and alternatives for a much better budget. See Billions Better for more information.

The unfortunate part, so far, is that the General Assembly’s Republican Leadership has refused to negotiate. This can change…

The good part is that the taxes being collected in North Carolina aren’t being wasted. I will say to the teachers and the other 73% of state employees (only 27% of state employees got the 5% raise) that the tax dollars the Governor’s budget allocates to your raises are still in the State Treasury. They have not been wasted in more corporate tax cuts or pork projects pushed by the leadership. The funds are still available. Bear with us!

And we can still place a Voter Approved School Bond on the ballot this year. With interest rates lower than 2%, this is the best time in the history for North Carolina to invest in its critical infrastructure needs. Stay tuned!

And Medicaid Expansion is still a no-brainer. After the primaries I believe we will have an opportunity to pass it. See Senator Jackson’s video. Be vigilant, together we can still get this done!

Martin Luther King Day.   We had a very strong MLK weekend all across my district. I attended the MLK breakfast in Asheville on Saturday morning, joined the Liberty Baptist Church in Sylva and their wonderful preacher Charles Lee Sunday morning, attended AME Jones Temple for the MLK community service in Waynesville and wound up an inspiring weekend at Lake Junaluska for the Haywood County Annual MLK breakfast.

Joe Sam’s Notes

It’s a new decade! Hallelujah!    This last decade has been one in which tax breaks and austerity budgets have consolidated wealth and prosperity for the few, in only few a places, without adequate investment in the public education, health or infrastructure for our whole state.

I would contend that when we hold this decade’s legislature accountable for the tax dollars they have wasted by denying our Federal Share of Medicaid Expansion, Food Stamps, Unemployment Benefits, and Mass Transit Funding, just to name a few. This decade of a Republican Dominated Majority will go down as the most wasteful in our state’s history by far. Over $30 billion, probably $40 billion, of our citizens tax dollars have been wasted – we have gotten nothing for them. Nothing.

And it’s not just the money, it’s the lives unnecessarily lost or negatively impacted.

We can do better in 2020, and we must. Opportunity is knocking.