Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Budget should make N.C. better, not boost partisanship and settle scores

Posted June 5, 2019 5:00 a.m. EDT
Updated June 7, 2019 10:29 a.m. EDT

Senate debate

CBC Editorial: Wednesday, June 5, 2019; Editorial #8428
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company


A budget, be it a modest household spending plan or a multi-billion dollar outlay for North Carolina government, is a statement of priorities.

The budget shoved through the state Senate certainly meets that criteria. It loudly speaks it is about:

  • Imposing rigid ideology;
  • Establishing partisan political dominance;
  • Continuing to lavish huge corporate welfare payments, in the form of unnecessary and unneeded tax cuts, on the state’s large businesses.
  • Enabling impulsive schemes without serious consideration of the consequences.
  • Settling scores with those with the temerity to question the Senate leadership cabal of Phil Berger, Harry Brown, Jerry Tillman, Brent Jackson and Ralph Hise. They are the masterminds behind the 895-page Tower of Babel-like budget built outside of the public’s view.

It also speaks to what gets short-shrift -- investing to make North Carolina a better place for everyone to: Raise families; Get a public education; Gain access to adequate and affordable health care services; Grow a business; and treat public employees and retirees with respect that honors their work and dedication.

Where does the Senate budget settle scores?

Look at the investment in public education, including teacher raises and those for public employees. Public school teachers had the gumption over the last two years to launch massive marches in Raleigh to demand better conditions for students and adequate funding for public schools. The budget falls WAY short of the schools’ needs, doesn’t properly provide for school construction needs. The microscopic pay raises for teachers – barely half of what other state workers will receive – is a thinly veiled slap.

North Carolina corporations, which have already reaped millions and millions in tax breaks – taxpayer dollars no longer available to improve public schools or meet other critical needs state government should be covering, will see a $140 million cut in the state’s franchise tax. That’s on top of corporate income tax cut that has reduced annual collections from $1.4 billion in 2014 to just $430 million now.

The attack on support or interest in energy conservation or renewable energy is unabated. The budget closes the state’s three university-based energy centers (at Appalachian State, N.C. State and N.C. A&T State). These hubs have both provided critical support and research for local communities as well as been a force in driving the sustainable energy economic development engine adding tens of thousands of jobs.

Even folks who own hybrid or electric vehicles are being attacked at the wallet. The owners of the 146,504 hybrid and 8,640 electric cars registered in the state already pay fees other car owners do not pay – and those will increase. The revenue generated – about $19 million is peanuts when it comes to road costs. If legislators must collect a premium (or is it a penalty?) from these alt-fuel vehicles, there should be a commitment to the infrastructure supporting them – particularly installing EV charging stations at all state rest areas and welcome centers.

Sen. Brent Jackson’s impulsive scheme to spend $250 million and move the state Department of Health and Human Services (and the nearly 5,000 who work for the agency) from Raleigh to Granville County is crystal clear evidence of the arrogance of the Senate’s leadership.

The propaganda operation in the Senate leader’s office has shifted into high gear. It has sifted out miniscule tidbits in the budget and inflated them into happy talk.

Regardless the propaganda, the budget speaks for itself.

It is about partisanship, ideological rigidity and revenge. It is not about a better North Carolina.

We deserve better. 2020 can’t come soon enough.

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