As Speaker Thom Tillis’ crew unveiled its new state budget in recent days and began the process of ramming it through the House of Representatives with as little public input and scrutiny as possible, there’s been a smattering of muted responses from a few groups and individuals on the progressive side of the spectrum – folks from whom one might have expected more pointed immediate reactions.
So what’s up? Did conservatives go soft and back down from their anti-government ways?
Hardly. If anything, this year’s proposed budget is even worse than last year’s disastrous effort to bring Hooverist austerity to North Carolina. In a time in which the combination of an economy on the rebound and the end of federal assistance makes it more necessary than ever for state leaders to step up to the plate to repair the damage of recent years, legislative leaders are opting for a stand pat, “do no good” budget that will allow our public structures and systems to fall into even greater disrepair.
Thankfully, now that some smart people have actually gotten a chance to read the darned thing, it’s quickly becoming quite clear that the House budget proposal is in a word, “lousy.” Here’s Alexandra Sirota of the N.C. Budget and Tax Center:
“While this budget may appear to address North Carolina’s most immediate fiscal challenges, it is at best a temporary fix, one that is neither sustainable nor adequate in its provision of the certainty and stability necessary to North Carolina’s economic recovery.”
The good people at the Together NC coalition put it this way:
“Most disappointing is that the budget proposal doesn’t have to look the way it does. Lawmakers could choose to raise revenue to adequately restore deep budget cuts and put North Carolina back on a forward-looking path…. House leaders chose to repaint the house a different color while the foundation crumbles.”
So why the initial quiet responses from some circles? Two main reasons:
First, GOP leaders have gotten a little more politically savvy. They saw the negative reaction that last year’s budget produced in the public and have tried to tone down the anti-government rhetoric a little (even as they double-down on the strategy with their actual deeds and appropriations).
Second and perhaps more importantly, expectations are truly so low as to be through the floor. In a world in which numerous lawmakers practically froth at the mouth with Tea Party-inspired rants about repealing the 20th Century, any budget that doesn’t affirmatively eliminate public education or human services immediately almost seems “reasonable” by definition.
Let’s hope, now that people are starting to speak up and out about the dreadful House budget, that more and more progressives warm to the fight.