Caucus: Senate gutted funding

Caucus: Senate gutted funding
July 13
05:00 2017

In the aftermath of reports that the Republican-led General Assembly did not appropriate $200,000 proposed by Gov. Roy Cooper for the long planned Freedom Monument project to honor black contributions to North Carolina history, comes word that the state Senate actually cut funding to the N.C. African American Heritage Commission, a part of the N.C. Dept. of Resources, in effect attempting to cripple the commission going forward.

Speaking on behalf of the N.C. Legislative Black Caucus about the General Assembly’s failure to fund the Freedom Monument, planning for which began under Republican Gov. Pat McCrory at least as far back as 2015, Sen. Angela Bryant (D-Halifax), in addressing the current status of the project, revealed what Senate Republicans initially did.

“While funding for the monument was a priority for the Legislative Black Caucus, we were not successful in securing funding this cycle – instead we were relegated to fighting to continue the staffing for the African American Heritage Commission, which was cut in the Senate Budget, and restored in the House Budget, and the final conference report,” she said.

Bryant later says there is no connection between “the funding for the Civil War Center in Fayetteville [which the conference report shows a $5 million appropriation for – 25 times the $200,000 for the Freedom Monument that was not appropriated] and the African American Freedom Monument.”

“The Civil War Center is a local economic development project with relatively broad support from the Fayetteville local government and community,” Bryant added.

According to the Winston-Salem-based primary fundraiser for the Civil War Center, of the approximately $27 million raised for its construction, funding came from Fayetteville, Cumberland County, and now $5 million from state government.

About $7 million of the total comes from private funds.

“We need to develop a similar constituency of support for the African American Freedom Monument and secure the needed funding in the upcoming short session [which according to published reports may be August and September],” Bryant said.

“The Legislative Black Caucus will continue to focus on the Freedom Monument project as a priority, including an update on all efforts – design, fundraising, advisory efforts and efforts of the Department of Cultural Resources,” Bryant continued.

“We do need to move it forward.”

Michelle Lanier, director of the N.C. African American Heritage Commission, was not available for comment, but a spokesperson for the commission confirmed that without the $200,000 appropriation from the legislature, the planning and design for the project cannot go forward. And, according to the spokesperson, there is no plan B for private funding.

Thus far, neither House Speaker Tim Moore or Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger have responded to inquiries as to why the Freedom Monument was not funded in the final conference report.

“This was negotiated after the full [committee] chairs finished all the budget work that was asked of us,” said Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), one of the budget committee members.

“I’m troubled that Republican legislative leaders neglected to fund an African American heritage monument on State Capitol grounds,” Gov. Cooper said in a statement.

“My Republican colleagues have once again decided to ignore the history of the people they serve. I hope that we are able to find common ground to fund a project that is long overdue,” Sen. Paul Lowe (D-Forsyth) added.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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