News: CJ Exclusives

Senate Budget Plan Excludes Funding For Eugenics Survivors

McCrory, Tillis have called compensation for sterilization program a priority

One stark difference between the GOP Senate budget plan and the one proposed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is money to compensate victims of North Carolina’s eugenics program.

McCrory’s budget, released in March, proposes to spend $10 million to compensate victims of the involuntary sterilization program that the state operated for decades. The Senate budget does not.

“The Senate position on eugenics has been out there for a while and nothing has changed,” Sen. Pete Brunstetter, a Forsyth Republican and co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said earlier this week. A bill providing compensation passed the state House in the 2011-12 session of the General Assembly but never was taken up by the Senate.

Brunstetter said he was sympathetic to the situation that victims of the sterilization program are in, calling it a “terrible time in our state’s history.”

He also said that there was very little room in the budget for expansion items.

For more than four decades, the state operated what is called a eugenics program that involuntarily sterilized an estimated 7,600 North Carolinians who were poor, sick, undereducated, or disabled. That practice stopped in the mid-1970s.

The earlier House bill offered $50,000 in compensation to living victims of the sterilization program. The bill also would have set up an office to help victims file their claims.

Such a compensation program was also supported by then-Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat.

But the Senate did not go along with the program, and the bill died.

Jordan Shaw, a spokesman for House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said Tillis still supports eugenics compensation.

“I think he’s been pretty vocal about his passion on the issue,” Shaw said. “I think we’re hopeful that we’ll make progress.”

Jordan said the issue is likely to come up when the budget comes over to the House.

Other items of note in the Senate budget include:

• Repealing the N.C. Public Campaign fund, used to pay for the campaigns of candidates for justice of the N.C. Supreme Court and judges on the N.C. Court of Appeals.

The budget also would repeal a corresponding $50 annual surcharge on attorneys used to help pay for the fund.

• Transferring of most State Bureau of Investigation agents from the Department of Justice, which falls under the purview of Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, to the Department of Public Safety, of McCrory and Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan.

Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said the move would organize the SBI “in a manner that will be more efficient.”

Cooper has said that moving the SBI to an organization under the governor’s office would compromise the agency’s independence.

• Eliminating the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center and establishing the Rural Economic Development within the N.C. Department of Commerce.

• Requiring the Department of Transportation to establish and collect tolls for all ferry routes in the state.

Barry Smith (@Barry_Smith) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.