The GOP majority on Jones Street has passed budget packages. The House and Senate versions are both in the ballpark of $20.6 billion (hundreds of millions higher than Bev Perdue’s last budget).
Mainly, the chambers are differing on spending priorities:
Transportation. Gov. Pat has described himself as “An Eisenhower Republican,” saying that he admires Ike because he built the interstates. It appears legislators are intent on supporting Gov. Pat’s aggressive transportation agenda, which includes light rail, new roads, and — apparently — toll roads. State Rep. Bob Brawley says the new budget includes nearly $1.5 billion to fund the implementation of toll roads.
Mecklenburg County Tea Partier Jay Privette has these observations about Raleigh’s transportation spending priorities:
I’ve done some calculations based on the models from Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute and David Hartgen, now advisor to the John Locke Foundation. If we are currently subsidizing the first leg of the Blue line to the tune of just over $20 per rider, the extension could easily require subsidies in excess of $70 per rider. The problem is over 92% of these subsidies go toward the capital cost of building the rails, so once built the bulk of these costs can never be recovered. Light rail does not share the cost of its road bed with that of other forms of transportation or commerce, which is the single most important factor in its exorbitant cost. These subsidies also don’t take into account that on average rails have to be replaced every 25-30 years at a cost comparable to what it took to build them.Contractors, land owners and developers profit if rails provide an anchor around which development takes place. Taxpayers don’t. The advisory panel to MUMPO is bragging about $10 million per year in new tax revenues that are suppose to take place along the Blue Line in 2015. Do the math. $10 million on $516 million invested is less than a 2% return, and it took seven years to develop and is still only a best case projection. Add $25 million per year in operating and maintenance costs, but in fairness subtract a little over $3 million per year in ticket sales. What are these people bragging about? Yet even the most educated in government keep pushing commuter rail that can only take us where the rails go. Is light rail anything other than a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the politically connected? If that is the case, why would they want to change it. Why not just continue hiding the truth from the taxpayers.What does the Blue Line, The Red Line, HOT Lanes, and the Big Dig in Boston all have in common?Parsons Brickenhoff, infrastructure consultants. They gave $30,000 to the save the transit tax campaign of 2007. Look what the Panama News, of all places, says about them.
Tax reform: Senate Republicans had been pushing what was billed as the largest tax cut in state history. The plan cut income tax and corporate tax rates, but instituted new sales taxes. Professions like lawyers and accountants had been getting a pass on collecting sales taxes for their services. (Gosh. I bet there are a few of those types in the legislature.) Several tax loopholes also got removed from state tax laws.
House leaders, and Senate leader Phil Berger, quietly walked back the new sales taxes and loophole closings. Senator Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) had been the point man in the campaign to pass the tax reform plan. Rightly feeling sold out and screwed over, Rucho resigned his position as the co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
In his resignation letter, Rucho blasted Gov. Pat and Speaker Thom for not having enough backbone to resist the special interests and their lobbyists seeking to keep things as-is as far as tax law goes.
Meanwhile, research is showing that Tennessee, Virginia, and South Carolina are making out like bandits with people leaving North Carolina seeking tax relief.
Spending. The House version of the budget restores funding for two HUGE money pits — The North Carolina Biotechnology Center and The NC Rural Center. The Senate budget cuts funding for roughly 1500 state jobs. The House version only cuts in the ballpark of 750. It’s a disgrace that we even have 750 or 1500 jobs that CAN go away without affecting state government’s performance.
The GOP took over on Jones Street promising to roll back government and reform tax policy. It looks like we’re going to be spending MORE than Bev did in her last year in office, and not getting much in the way of tax reform. We’re hearing about adding new sales taxes for services — but we’re getting diddly as far as corresponding spending cuts go.
Following the 2010 and 2012 votes, we were led to believe that we were getting a “conservative revolution” — running off the moneychangers in the temple. Instead of running off said moneychangers, it looks like we’ve merely had the second shift clock in.