North Carolina’s disastrous budget fiasco is getting some much needed attention
What our State Office of Budget and Management called ‘disappointing’, Sabra Faires, in the N&O article on May 6, 2014 termed a ‘Budget Disaster of Gigantic Proportions’. That says it all, NC policymakers really made a terrible budget. Faires is a former assistant secretary for Tax Administration at the NC Department of Revenue – the woman knows whereof she speaks.
A de facto ‘Plan to Fail’ has been designed. The budget slashed taxes for wealthy individuals and profitable corporations who aren’t in need of the state’s largesse, at the same time burdening the working class (low and middle wage earners). Thanks to this bad budget and other laws passed in 2013, the unemployed, many of our children, the elderly, and the disabled of all ages are already faring worse (lost programs, thousands of teachers and teacher assistants laid off before school year, more leaving for greener pastures after school year began, slashed unemployment benefits, etc). Far from creating a budget that works, our legislators have created a short fall of $445 million by June 30, 2014, according to the Fiscal Research Division and the Office of Budget and Management figures released last Friday, May 2, 2014. Show us the money indeed, and its unfair appropriation.
According to Faires, this structural deficit “is the result of the 2013 tax law changes that reduce expected revenues below expected expenses.” And there are short-term and long-term problems with the budget. Worse, the budget does not plan for predicted growth, like growth in education employment, teacher and state employee raises, growth in Medicaid, plans for repairs and maintenance.
To add insult to injury, our elected officials have chosen to shorten the ‘Short Session’ by one third — they will meet for four weeks, rather than the usual six weeks. There is as much time to make a difference as there is to do more damage. What will the people we elected do? What should they do?
We would like to suggest that in those four short weeks they could remedy a great many of the problems they created in their cutting and slashing march across the state budget. Some of those are
* Restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit enabling working families to provide the basic necessities for themselves.
* Raising teachers’ salaries to a respectable level, rather than leave them at the deplorable 46th in the nation position they are now. Invest in public schools by replacing teacher assistants and other staff, and providing textbooks, and other resources.
* Return the $11 million in private school vouchers to public education. That $11 million allocation is for the 2014-2015 school year alone.
* Restore the Personal Exemption tax, and the former calculation for determining how much of a retired person’s Social Security is taxed.
These all affect women to a great degree – single women, teachers, mothers with families to feed and clothe, older women on fixed incomes.
Halting the second phase of the tax law would allow the state to reinvest and rebuild. Current law dictates further reductions in the personal income tax rate and the corporate income tax rate in 2015, when North Carolina clearly cannot afford these.
Most importantly our elected officials have a responsibility to the people who put them in power to provide balance and fairness in the entire tax structure. The tax structure currently favors wealthy individuals and successful corporations at the expense of the low and middle wage earners. The budget as it stands cannot work – it is not designed to maintain programs for the public good, it didn’t plan for predicted growth.
Our lawmakers need to use the short session to fix this gigantic mess of a budget and get North Carolina on track for jobs, public education, health care, and the public good.