This morning’s edition of Setting the record straight  over on the main Policy Watch website has some rare praise for the surprisingly progressive rhetoric emanating from state budget negotiations this week. But it also takes lawmakers to task for their failure to seize upon the most obvious solution to their inability to find a way to fund the essential services (i.e. teachers and health care) that they have prioritized. The best answer to the General Assembly’s budget dilemma, of course, is to halt next January’s scheduled tax cut that will primarily benefit the rich:
“According to the best and most recent estimates, the 2013 tax cuts – which overwhelmingly favor the state’s most wealthy taxpayers – are costing the state more than $500 million in foregone revenue in the fiscal year that began last week. Add to this the fact that the cuts have caused a downward revision of revenue projections by another $190 million and the gap may well balloon to more than $700 million.
Even if lawmakers left these cuts in place, however, and merely stopped the implementation of a yet another round of tax cuts scheduled to take effect next January, the state would still realize $300 million in additional revenue in calendar year 2015 – more than enough to make a significant dent in the education shortfall and solve innumerable problems in the current negotiations.”
Meanwhile, this morning’s lead editorial in the Charlotte Observer  has another quick fix proposal — at least on teacher pay:
“How to pay for it: This is where budget negotiators have the most work to do. House negotiators need to abandon the fantasy of paying for teacher raises by increasing lottery advertising and hoping more people play. Senate negotiators should abandon the notion of paying for the raises in part by cutting 7,000 teacher assistants. The latter would mean offering teachers more money but making their jobs harder and hurting their classrooms.
A reasonable alternative: The McCrory/Tillis plan relies on $116 million from past-year lottery surpluses, plus $81.6 million once earmarked for reserves. At the least, teacher raises shouldn’t be paid for by inflicting pain on other critical resources or programs.”
Unfortunately, of course, such a “solution” only invites another budget crisis next year — something the Observer ought to anticipate since the editorial goes on to argue persuasively that lawmakers also need to have a real long-term target on teacher pay.
Sigh. Stay tuned.