State Politics

Campaign fact check: Hagan-Tillis claims and counter claims

A Thom Tillis’ ad claims that Sen. Kay Hagan skipped half the Armed Services Committee meetings. Hagan’s campaign has said she missed most meetings because of conflicts with other committees that she’s on.
A Thom Tillis’ ad claims that Sen. Kay Hagan skipped half the Armed Services Committee meetings. Hagan’s campaign has said she missed most meetings because of conflicts with other committees that she’s on. THOM TILLIS COMMITTEE

Education cuts

The claim: “Thom Tillis is terrible for education in North Carolina. He cut $500 million from our budget.”

Who made it: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, National Education Association Advocacy Fund, Senate Majority PAC in separate TV ads and U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in the first debate.

The facts: The $500 million amount comes from the continuation budget put out each year by the state Department of Public Instruction. This is the amount DPI says it would cost to keep programs going at the current level when factoring in the enrollment of more students. The 2013 continuation budget called for $23.6 billion over two years. The legislature’s budget included $23.1 billion over two years, or $482 million short of what DPI said was needed. Tillis voted for that budget.

The $500 million is an overstatement. Some also argue that underfunding is not a cut.

But that’s not the end of it.

The current budget funds K-12 education at $8.1 billion. In 2008-2009 – the last Democratic budget before the recession led to freezes and cuts – the budget for K-12 was $7.8 billion.

There are two things to note about that gap. First, the Democrats’ K-12 budget included More at Four, which Republicans have renamed N.C. Pre-K and moved into the Department of Health and Human Services budget.

Second, Democrats put teacher pay raises into a separate budget category, not part of the education budget. Republicans have changed that, so the education budget includes teacher raises. While the current K-12 budget is $300 million more than the 2008-2009 budget, more than $280 million of that is for teacher raises.

Philip Price, the DPI chief financial officer, says the money budgeted for textbooks, instructional supplies, technology, literacy coaches, teacher assistants and the like, has been reduced by $1 billion since 2008-2009.

Teacher raises

Claim: “A 7 percent pay raise. That’s what we passed this year for North Carolina teachers. That’s simple math.”

Who made it: Thom Tillis campaign ad.

The facts: The teacher pay raise included in the state budget came with a new pay scale that folded longevity pay – given to teachers with 10 years or more of experience – into the teacher’s regular salary. Teachers argued that you couldn’t take something they were already earning, repackage it and call it a raise.

Also, that 7 percent is an average. Teachers with 5 to 6 years’ experience are seeing the highest raises at 18.5 percent, while teachers with 30 years’ experience will get 0.29 percent raises.

Tax breaks

Claim: “Tillis sliced and diced education, creating chaos in our classrooms and hurting middle-class families, while giving tax breaks to yacht and jet owners.”

Who made it: Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The facts: The sales tax break has been around for decades, and it was maintained in budgets Hagan helped write and pass when she was in the state Senate. When the GOP overhauled the state’s tax code in 2013, it did away with some tax breaks but kept those. The maximum sales tax on yachts and jets, by the way, is 3 percent of the purchase price.

Voting stance

Claim: Hagan voted with President Barack Obama 96 percent of the time.

Who made it: Tillis, Crossroads GPS.

The facts: The figures come from Congressional Quarterly, which catalogs votes. Hagan did vote with Obama 96 percent of the time in 2013 (and in 2012). In 2013, that was based on the 37.1 percent of Senate roll-call votes on which the president took a position.

She has veered from the administration’s position at times. In 2009, she supported a proposal by Republican Sen. Richard Burr to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from regulating tobacco products. Last year, she was one of 76 senators who unsuccessfully urged the president to toughen sanctions against Iran because of its nuclear activities. She supports building the Keystone XL pipeline, which the Obama administration keeps delaying.

Hagan has countered by saying she is “the most moderate senator,” based on this year’s ranking by the National Journal, a nonpartisan magazine that covers Congress. It found Hagan the 51st most liberal and 49th most conservative senator, based on an analysis of votes.


Claim: Hagan is “the most moderate” senator.

Who made it: Hagan.

The facts: The claim comes from this year’s ranking by the National Journal, a nonpartisan magazine that covers Congress.

It found Hagan the 51st most liberal and 49th most conservative senator, based on an analysis of 2013 votes. Previous rankings found Hagan more liberal.

Claim: Hagan hasn’t authored a bill in six years.

Who made it: Tillis.

The facts: Hagan has not written a bill the president has signed. She says she’s been effective in other ways.

Some of her bills have been folded into other legislation, as typically happens in Congress. Her AMERICA Works Act, which requires that operators of job-training centers prioritize skills that will lead to nationally recognized credentials that are in demand, was added to a bill that streamlines federal job training. It became law this past summer.

In 2013, she and Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and one of the Senate’s most conservative members, added an amendment to a budget bill to restore a program that pays tuition, one class at a time, for active-duty service members.

She said as a stand-alone bill, it could have languished. The amendment became law in two weeks.


Claim: Tillis defunded Planned Parenthood.

Who made it: Hagan.

The facts: The 2011 state budget prevented Planned Parenthood from receiving state money. Then Gov. Bev Perdue vetoed the budget, but it was overridden by the legislature. Tillis voted for the budget and the override.

A federal judge later disallowed the provision. U.S. District Judge James Beaty Jr. said lawmakers had made clear that the denial of funds was intended as political punishment for the organization.

So in 2012 the legislature passed a budget prohibiting state contracts for family planning or pregnancy prevention services. Although not named, Planned Parenthood was the only private entity fitting that description.

Planned Parenthood apparently had the last laugh. In 2012, it applied directly for federal family planning money and won a grant for $426,000 – more than three times the amount the legislature originally withheld.

Health care

Claim: Tillis denied 500,000 North Carolinians Medicaid coverage.

Who made it: Hagan.

The facts: North Carolina is among 23 states that chose not to extend Medicaid, the health program for the poor. Tillis voted for the legislation. In an ad ( bit.ly/1rVATgw) during the primary, Tillis boasted about his role (“Tillis stopped Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion cold.”).

The 500,000 number comes from estimates at the time the legislature was passing the law. It is based on information from the N.C. Institute of Medicine, provided by the state’s Division of Medical Assistance. A Kaiser Family Foundation report put the estimate lower, 318,000. These are people in low-wage jobs as home health aides, waitresses, bus drivers and construction workers who earn too little to get subsidies and don’t qualify for Medicaid.

Some estimates are as high as 689,000 but are said to include undocumented immigrants, who wouldn’t be eligible, and uninsured adults who are already eligible for Medicaid but haven’t enrolled.


Claim: The Affordable Care Act took $700 billion away from Medicare.

Who made it: Tillis.

The facts: The Congressional Budget Office estimated $716 billion in savings from Medicare from 2013-2022. The goal is to increase efficiency and quality of care.

PolitiFact, a nonpartisan fact-checking project, says: “Obamacare does not literally cut funding from the Medicare budget, but tries to bring down future health care costs in the program. Much of this is accomplished by reducing Medicare Advantage, a small subset of Medicare plans that are run by private insurers.”

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the ACA “played an important role in putting Medicare on stronger financial footing.”


Claim: Tillis would cut Medicare.

Who made it: DSCC; Senate Majority PAC; Patriot Majority USA.

The facts: Democrats base this claim on 2012 interviews in which Tillis praised a budget by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan. The budget reduced federal spending, flattened tax rates and privatized Medicare.

Tillis said he supported elements of the budget, particularly the tax changes.

A spokesman says: “He is against making any cuts or changes to Medicare for seniors or those nearing the age of retirement.”


Claim: “Just when insurance is finally covering the cost of prescription birth control, Thom Tillis says no: Women should pay the $600 a year.”

Who said it: Planned Parenthood ad.

The facts: At last month’s debate, Tillis said birth control should be available over the counter, and “we need to provide broader access and work to lower the cost of contraception.” He also has said Congress could require coverage even if Obamacare is repealed.

Currently, under the Affordable Care Act, birth control is covered by insurance. Hagan counters that the change, combined with repeal of the ACA that Tillis also calls for, would cost women $483 million a year. That’s the amount paid for contraception covered under Obamacare.

Immigration

Claim: Obama has failed to address immigration and strengthen border security.

Who made it: Tillis.

The facts: The comprehensive immigration bill the Senate passed 68-32 in June 2013 doubled the number of Border Patrol agents from 20,000 to 40,000 and added 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.

It also created a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who met certain requirements. Hagan voted for it, as did 14 Senate Republicans. But Republicans in the House of Representatives rejected it. The House never took up the broad immigration package that the Senate passed.

Foreign policy

Claim: Hagan skipped half the Armed Services Committee meetings and never held a meeting on ISIS on the Emerging Threats subcommittee that she chairs. And she missed a committee meeting to go to a fundraiser.

Who says it: Tillis campaign ad.

The facts: Hagan’s campaign has said she missed most meetings because of conflicts with other committees that she’s on. Hagan says she held three closed meetings on the group that became ISIS, and that she has recently asked questions about the Khorasan group, an al-Qaida offshoot.

Last month, she joined a bipartisan coalition of senators in authorizing airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. She said she supports the military airstrikes in Syria but thinks Congress needs to approve any further escalation.

Tillis said last month that he didn’t know whether the U.S. should arm moderate rebels in Syria. “I would have to know that these arms would not get in the hands of people who would want to take over the Middle East,” he said.

Hagan responded by saying, “I think he’s been spineless about what needs to be done to take out these terrorists.”

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