The year was 1992. George H W Bush was President and Miley Cyrus was born. That’s how far back you have to go to find a state General Fund budget that is as small per capita as the House of Represetntatives is currently proposing. In many ways I wouldn’t mind going back to 1992. I would be 17 years younger, the benefits of which go without saying, and I would not be expected to be available 24-7 via Twitter, PDA and cell phone. I would not enjoy, however, returning to the quality of public structures and institutions that were available at that time. That would mean undoing lots of great things North Carolina has done since then…adding optional services to its Medicaid program so that low-income elderly and disabled folks have access to decent health care, lowering class sizes, increasing teacher pay, establishing truth-in-sentencing, and creating the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to name a few improvements.
The NC House of Representatives has announced a General Fund target of $17.6 billion for FY 2009-10. If that target becomes a reality that would set General Fund spending at $1,870 per state resident. The last time the state witnesed a state spending number that small was the FY 1992-93 budget (also a recession-era budget) when General Fund spending per person was $1,805 (in 2009 dollars).
Hopefully, the House will realize in short order the damage that their plan will do to the economy, to families and to communities and they will consider filling in a portion of the state budget gap with smartly-crafted tax increases. This is what North Carolina did in the early 1990’s and the early 2000’s, and it is what 16 states have already done during the current recession and 17 more are considering doing so. Seventeen years of progress is worth fighting for.