The NC House’s quick turnaround in debating and passing its proposed two-year state budget reflects the priorities and choices of House leadership. In less than 24 hours, House lawmakers gave two favorable votes for its proposed budget, but not before rejecting and dismissing a number of proposed amendments that would have boosted public investments that serve as bridges to opportunity and that promote thriving communities. These amendments were rejected as opponents claimed that we don’t have the money for these worthwhile investments and that we must stay the course with the austerity budget approach state leaders have pursued in recent years – a course that Kansas recently reversed after it left their state budget in tatters.
Six proposed amendments would have increased state support for public education, expanded access to opportunity for rural NC and provided a modest boost to the fixed incomes of state retirees. However, these six amendments were met with six quick funerals. A majority of House members voted against four of the amendments, and two were tabled and never got a vote on the House floor.
Six amendments that were rejected by House lawmakers
Staying the course
For North Carolina, staying the course means prioritizing tax cuts – that have largely benefited the highest income earners in the state and profitable corporations – at the expense of public investments that promote broadly shared prosperity. The House budget includes a package of tax cuts that reduce available revenue by $120 million for fiscal year 2018 and by $246.1 million the following fiscal year. The price tag of tax cuts included in the House budget is nearly equivalent to total revenue needed to pay for all six of the highlighted amendments that met an unfortunate demise.
This is what stay the course means for North Carolina in 2017 and foreshadows the state’s future. Lawmakers have made the decision to reject boosting public investments amid an improving economy. They favor tax cuts that largely benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations rather than boosting state funding for public education, expanding access to opportunity for rural NC and helping ensure that state retirees can make ends meet on fixed incomes. This post-mortem of six amendments and six funerals highlights how the priorities and choices of House leadership resulted in a lackluster budget. The writing is on the wall, and it doesn’t read well for North Carolina. Just ask Kansas.
Cedric D. Johnson is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.