It isn’t wonky to be spending most of the afternoon reading through Gov. McCrory’s budget. Is it?
Really. Is it?
If you are like me and want to really do a deep dive into the numbers, here’s a link. I opened it on my iPad, and leaned back and scrolled through the 278 pages. While I am interested in how the Wildlife Resources Commission made out (Pages 192-194), what I like about budgets are the economic and demographic factoids and forecasts embedded throughout.
I started tweeting them on my Twitter account as I read along through the budget because I wanted to bother other people. Here’s what I was tweeting:
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Actually, the budget didn’t say anything about soft rock. I was being a smart guy. But the aging of the population has significant implications, long term, for the state’s economy and the debate over policies. As people get older, their health care needs increase and their mobility decreases. Their housing needs will change.
We are still growing like crazy, and most of this growth is concentrated in the largest metro areas, like the Triangle and Charlotte. The population growth is increasing the need for more teachers and roads, among other things.
This one threw me. Maybe there are a couple of things at work. As the economy recovered from the Great Recession, more jobs opened up and people who were in school because there was no work suddenly found jobs. So that might reduce enrollment. But it could also be that rural counties are losing population and so are their local community colleges.
A slide presentation has the “base growth” of general fund revenue in the year starting July 2016 and ending June 2017 at 4.1 percent. Later, when I was looking through the budget more closely, the forecast appeared as 3.8 percent. (I can’t figure out the discrepancy but the two figures are close enough.) The current year is expected to finish up 2.9 percent. So the governor’s people are expecting an improvement in the economy. And why not? We have some momentum. The unemployment rate has dropped by more than half over the past five years. But wages are still stagnant and rural counties are still suffering from staggering losses of traditional manufacturing jobs. One industry that has been slow to recover has been housing construction, which collapsed in the Great Recession. The inventory of new homes for sale in November in Wake County was 26 percent below where it was in 2010, according to a January story written by Business editor David Bracken. Housing is a great engine of growth, and as the governor’s budget notes, if it cranks up, the economic impact could be substantial.
Maybe if people aren’t willing or able to buy a new home, they can get into some new wheels. So the car dealers must be doing OK, and that’s something.