Sen. Thom Goolsby
Liberal Whining and Complaining
The Senate debate on the state budget got a little crazy on its final passage. Speakers for the Democrat minority rose to decry supposed cuts to education, tolling of state ferries, lack of highway funding, meager raises for state employees and no money for a eugenics compensation program.
When I could not take the whining and complaining any longer, I had to rise and speak my mind. Somehow the Democrats forgot about the $3 billion hole they left in the state budget before their shellacking in the November 2010 elections. I reminded them Republicans are bound and determined to fix the deficit by cutting spending without imposing more taxes on our fellow Tar Heels.
You cannot “tax into prosperity”
Senate Democrats returned to their mantra that North Carolina can be “taxed into prosperity.” No matter how often they say something that defies logic, sheer repetition does not make it so. Since last summer they argued adding one penny to the sales tax would solve most of our budget problems. Somehow, they divined, the one billion-dollar sucking sound from this tax increase would not hurt, but actually improve North Carolina’s private sector. We already have the dubious distinction of the highest-taxed state in the Southeast and can ill afford bigger government. According to a recent Civitas poll, 68 percent of North Carolinians agree with me and oppose a one-cent increase in the sales tax.
Education spending not slashed, but increased
Despite claims that education was slashed in this year’s budget, the last cycle Democrats were in charge (2010–11), state spending on public schools totaled $7.08 billion. Under Republican control, spending on public schools increased to $7.46 billion last year (2011–12) and is going even higher this year to $7.5 billion (2012–13).
One Democrat senator claimed that 3000 teachers would lose their jobs due to this year’s state budget. He confused the issue by referring to the loss of one time Federal “stimulus” money. I reminded him North Carolina doesn’t add funding obligations when Washington D.C. cuts spending. I noted the funding layer differences and identified figures from the Department of Public Instruction’s website that pertain specifically to state funding. No response was forthcoming.
Budget is not perfect
Regardless of what politicians promise about state budgets, they are rarely beautiful creatures. This year’s consensus spending plan is far from perfect. The short session was marked by unfortunate budget obligations like the $250 million Medicaid shortfall. Nonetheless, hard work by budget writers in both chambers (including bipartisan support in the House) produced a balanced budget with no tax increases and adequate funding for government programs.
Republicans can be proud
The last two-year budget written by Democrats left the state on the verge of bankruptcy amid an economic crisis. No matter who controls Raleigh after the elections this November, Republicans put North Carolina on sound financial footing. Unlike the last election cycle, no one will inherit a multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall. For this fact alone, Republicans can be proud. I am confident most forward-thinking North Carolinians would agree.
Thom Goolsby is a trial attorney, law professor and N.C. State Senator.