As any regular and honest reader of NC Policy Watch can attest, our websites are no hotbeds of liberal love for Governor Perdue. Through the years, it’s fair to say that she’s goten mixed reviews in our various publications. Though we’ve praised her performance many times, we’ve also given her heck on multiple occasions.
Today’s attacks on the Governor by Art Pope camp , however, for her very understated criticisms of its blatantly dishonest ads about public education deserve a response. Put simply: the Pope people are taking cheap shots at the Guv. Here’s why:
According to the Pope people, Perdue has no right to criticize them because she signed a budget in 2009 that cut education funding. How dare she criticize them now, say the Pope-sters, for doing what she did herself?
As we noted back in January, however, this is an absurd comparison. As we noted then :
“When Governor Perdue came into office in 2009, the national economy (and. thus, state revenues) were both in a 200 m.p.h. free fall – the worst since the Great Depression. Nonetheless, despite this dire and essentially unprecedented situation, Perdue and the Democratic General Assembly acted to: 1) renew temporary taxes that had been scheduled to expire and 2) draw down as much federal aid as possible.
The result was that damage was minimized. Rather than the truly draconian measures taken in other states like shortening the school year and closing vast numbers of schools,North Carolinamuddled along more or less intact. Cuts were painful – especially the first year – but not nearly as disastrous as they would have been if Perdue had heeded the conservative, Herbert Hoover-like advice to do nothing.
Of course, many thoughtful people would have liked to have seen Perdue and the Democratically-controlled General Assembly do even more, but at least both did act. They took strong, intentional action to minimize harm.
Now, flash forward to 2011. With the economy finally beginning a gradual turnaround, revenues were still severely depressed but not falling like 2009. It was an obvious time to recover lost ground. Nonetheless, because of conservative obstructionism in Washington, any hope for additional federal stimulus assistance had been dashed. Thus, even with an end to the economic free fall, the need for state income was desperate if leaders were going to replace the expiring federal stimulus dollars.
So what did conservative legislative leaders do when confronted with this crisis? The answer, of course, is that they cut taxes and took state spending back to the levels of the early 1970’s . At a point in time in which their services were more important than ever, thousands of education professionals (not to mention thousands of additional important public employees working in dozens of other critical areas) were let go – all so State residents could receive a tax cut that most of them have not noticed and thought was unnecessary  (with the notable exception of the many wealthy individuals and corporations – whose accountants knew quite well what they were receiving).
So who’s “playing politics” in all of this? Obviously, at some level that’s what all politicians do. But here’s the top reason the various claims of conservatives ring especially hollow and duplicitous:
To the Tea Party base, Speaker Tillis and his allies brag about slashing government and their plans to privatize public education – i.e. what they’ve actually done or commenced.
In polite company, however, the Republicans’ tune changes. That’s when, realizing as they do that most voters don’t go along with their extreme, far right ideology, the spin and word parsing about increasing the number of “state funded” teachers begins. Sadly, this is a familiar pattern  to anyone who’s watched the debate on Jones Street over the last year.
In the end, it’s hard to know what’s worse: the damage conservatives are inflicting on the state or their two-faced refusal to stand up and publicly admit what they’re really doing.”