Faced with the hard reality of a growing state budget shortfall resulting from their ill-advised tax giveaways to wealthy individuals and profitable corporations, state legislative leaders have apparently opted to try to spin their way out of the mess.
House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam was the latest to try out a little song and dance step on the issue yesterday when he issued a statement claiming that there is no shortfall because “After controlling for population and inflation, we are likely to have just as much revenue in 2014-15 as we did in 2013-14.”
This is classic political double-speak.
The fact of the matter is that a budget shortfall exists when the state does not bring in enough money in a new year to pay for the level of services it provided in the previous year. It’s not about “growing government” as Stam alleges; it’s about sustaining the services we have — i.e. not raising class sizes, not cutting health care reimbursements for the disabled, not further decimating our broken courts system, etc….
Right now, it’s clear that the 2013 tax cuts have led directly to a situation in which the state will bring in hundreds of millions of dollars less than it needs just to keep things going at their already inadequate levels in the new fiscal year that begins July 1. Indeed, as a percentage of total state income, state spending during the current year is already at 1970’s levels.
The bottom line: Try as Stam and his allies might to lower the bar with talk of red herrings like inflation and population growth, they simply won’t be able to spin their way out of this situation. And absent some kind of dramatic ideological turnaround that would lead to the implementation of the kind of policy changes that would produce a truly responsible state budget, North Carolinians will soon suffer the consequences of this latest ill-conceived and destructive experiment in trickledown economics.