Among the challenges facing the General Assembly next year, arguably the biggest will be closing the $3.5-to-$4 billion revenue shortfall forecast for next year’s state budget. The challenge will be made all the more difficult if the new GOP leadership attempts to follow through with the campaign promises of many newly elected members to further cut state tax rates.
Those following the campaigns for the General Assembly probably noticed the absence of specifics in candidates’ pledges to cut spending in Raleigh. The reason? There is no way to get anywhere near $3.5 billion in cuts–let along $4 or $4.5 billion–without cutting public investments that directly benefit the people of North Carolina.
The truth is that $19.2 billion of the $20.6 billion 2010-11 state budget (which includes federal recovery dollars) went to public schools, community colleges, the UNC system, health care, public safety, and paying the state’s debt. For those counting, that’s 93 percent of the state budget. The rest? It includes funding state agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Commerce, the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly, and other agencies that do important work for the people of North Carolina.
Because nearly all of the state budget supports such popular, worthwhile public structures that are critical to sustaining the state’s economy and the quality of life of North Carolina residents, the newly elected members of the General Assembly will likely be in for a bit of a rude awakening when campaign rhetoric of state spending cuts meets the reality of what it means to be responsible for the budgetary decisions that will affect the lives of millions of North Carolinians.