NC’s austerity budgeting hurts the state and its future

It’s good news on the tax revenue front for North Carolina, but the General Assembly has no intention of spreading that good news. No, the budget expectations for this year have revenue exceeding expectations by $330 million, $93 million more than an earlier figure. This is from the state budget office and the General Assembly’s own fiscal research unit.

A few hundred million extra dollars could make a difference for people. It could go toward public education, toward programs for the mentally ill and handicapped, toward help for the elderly in need, even toward infrastructure, improvements on public buildings and the like.

Instead, it’s clear Republican leaders intend to blow it all – on tax cuts, either outright cuts or by raising the amount of personal income exempted from taxes.

Then there’s this: In one of the most foolish maneuvers ever, legislators are hooking their spending for 2017 to a formula whereby the state can’t boost its spending by more than the percentage growth in population and inflation. That hamstrings the budget, as lawmakers in Colorado discovered after they went down that wrong path. Such a formula prohibits decent raises for teachers and investment in technology and ties the state’s hands with regard to boosting a community college system with extra money, for one example.

And why? So Republicans on Jones Street can boast about tax cuts and about holding the line on government spending. But that boast comes at the expense of the state’s needs and its future.