McCrory's budget, a modest, but improved proposal

May 14, 2014 

Gov. Pat McCrory knows well, as does his budget guru Art Pope, that the budget proposal the governor put forward on the first day of the General Assembly’s “short session” amounts to a rough draft.

And though House Speaker Thom Tillis and Phil Berger, Senate president pro tem, were friendly to the governor’s ideas, in the end they and their subordinates will write any budget revisions this session.

So the dance begins. McCrory proposes a 2 percent cut to the University of North Carolina system and the first stage of a roughly 7 percent raise for early-career teachers, 2 to 4 percent for other teachers over time and around $1,000 for state workers counting benefits, and some modest boosts in other programs.

Give him credit. The governor is at least trying to help teachers and other employees, if modestly. He’s not all about slash and burn. Perhaps he’ll at least get some concessions from lawmakers inclined to lean against public education.

The governor’s budget may prove inordinately optimistic about a projected shortfall in Medicaid funding. It estimates $70 million compared with an estimate not that long ago of nearly double that. But considering revenue shortfalls caused by excessive tax cuts by Republicans, there doesn’t seem to be much wiggle room in the governor’s budget proposals.

And some of the money he’s using to balance the budget is coming from agencies that didn’t spend all they had. But money that comes from the pot of unspent allocations comes only once.

Republicans – McCrory isn’t the only one who does this – are counting on more revenue from an improving economy. They call it the Carolina Comeback. But it’s really a bet based on supply-side economics. If their optimism falls short of reality, North Carolinians will lose.

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