Rick Glazier, Executive director of the North Carolina Justice Center, wrote an editorial that appeared in the News and Observer yesterday saying the budget from N.C. legislators falls short of not only meeting the needs of the state but also departs from a history of commitment to public investments like the state’s university system and neglects foundations for a strong future. (Note: N.C. Justice Center is the parent organization of N.C. Policy Watch.)
The state is about to adopt a budget for the coming year based not on what our state needs and what it will reasonably take to meet those needs but on a number lawmakers pretty much picked out of thin air.
Instead of considering how to help communities thrive, give all kids a top-flight education or invest in a strong future, they opted to let a formula take the place of reasoned deliberation. Judgment is giving way to rigid numbers. For no common-sense reason, they decided the state’s public investments over the next year couldn’t exceed the percentage growth in the state’s population plus inflation.
Why? That’s what happens when you so deplete public resources through a string of tax cuts that benefit mostly the wealthiest that you lack the revenue to meet actual needs. That’s what happens when you try to permanently cap the income tax at 5.5 percent to further limit resources.
Never mind that the number of North Carolina children and elderly will likely grow faster than the population as a whole.
Never mind that some important expenses — like health care — often grow by far more than the relatively low inflation rate these days.
Never mind that many dedicated public workers have gone a long time without real salary increases, leaving them to struggle to meet rising costs for the basics.
Never mind that some students in North Carolina are trying to learn from frayed, out-of-date text books.
Never mind that our courts are stretched and can no longer ensure all have access to representation or that the delivery of justice is efficient.
You could say North Carolina is about to adopt a “never mind” budget. And that’s a shame.
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