We’ve heard some tough talk. Everyone is beating their chest getting ready for the upcoming elections. But the chest-beaters are apparently ready to send to the governor a budget that increases taxes, increases spending, and grows government.
A group of House conservatives — many of whom we’ve had great respect for — sent a tough letter claiming to be steadfastly opposed to a big-government budget deal. But they appear to have sent out a release pledging their support for a budget that includes three times as many film incentives and a whole lot of corporate welfare. You know, the stuff they SAID there was no way in hell they would vote for.
One legislator even released an outline of, um, “highlights’:
Spending of $21.735 billion in 2015 – 2016 and $21.921 in 2016 – 2017
Mo’ Money. Mo’ Money. Mo’ (other people’s) money. MORE:
– – Salary and Benefits:
o Starting teachers (years 0 – 4) will receive an increase from $33,000 a year to $35,000 a year.
o All teachers and state employees will receive a $750 bonus by the end of fiscal year 2015.
o Highway Patrol sworn members will receive a 3% increase.
Teacher Assistants in the lower grades are fully funded.
o Driver Education is fully funded.
o Increased funding for textbooks and digital learning resources.
o Increase in Opportunity Scholarships.
o $7.5 million to Community Colleges for career course equipment.
*How on earth did ANYONE learn to drive before the schools began offering free driver’s ed?*
Seriously. I had to practically teach myself. This girl and I were taken out each day by our semi-retired baseball coach. He would fall asleep halfway into the drive, and we were left to fend for ourselves.
o Eliminated the transfer from the Highway Fund to the General Fund, over $200 million.
o $440 million in additional road funding.
o $70 million for port modernization
Health and Human Services:
o Increased funding for mental health services
o No changes to the Certificate of Need laws.
CON laws are monopoly protections for hospitals. They kill competition and keep medical costs jacked up high. The hospital lobbyists got the job done here. The patients lost.
Agriculture and Natural Resources:
o Support for dredging of coastal inlets.
o Additional funding to support the Oyster industry.
o $3 million for Tourism Funding.
o $500 thousand for Shale Gas Exploration.
o $1.3 million in administrative cuts to DENR.
Solar energy credits are bad, but throwing money at fracking is GOOD? And do we really need to have the state spending money on “support(ing)” the oyster industry? Kudos for cutting DENR — even if that is a drop in a rusty bucket.
Justice and Public Safety:
o Grants for body-worn cameras for law enforcement.
o Completes funding for in-car cameras for Highway Patrol vehicles.
o Additional funds for court modernization.
This is for buying Democrat votes. It’s a shame you have to do that in a Republican super-majority. MORE:
o New Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs.
o New Dept. of Information Technology.
Why are either of these necessary? Military and veterans affairs are clearly in the federal domain. Why do we need a new Department of Information Technology when we already have an Office of Information Technology Services (ITS)?
o Tax Package: Cut personal income tax rate 0.26% to %.499%.
o Keeps Corporate Income Tax rate trigger that should drop the 2016 rate to 3%.
$30 million for film grants.
$8 million in 2016 – 2017 for Historic Tax Credit.
Funding for OneNC fund, Rural Economic Development Grants, and JMAC fund.
on the tax changes. But it is AMAZING that film grants were stuck back in when there was such a huge public outcry at the end of last session. (By the way, the biggest box office smash right now was filmed in North Carolina. And I can’t find a mention of it anywhere on the NC Film Office web site.)
The historic tax credit is a payoff to some high-dollar campaign contributors who also develop property. OneNC is basically a corporate welfare slush fund for the governor. Economic developers are told that the governor MUST be the one to announce any OneNC grants. If word leaks out before his office announces, the money goes away. Rural Economic Development and JMAC are also corporate welfare slush funds. Not too different from the scandalous details of the Rural Center.
Overall, Mr. Berger and Mr. Apodaca appear to have had the upper hand here. Speaker Moore had to save face by closing the deal himself — dismissing his top lieutenants who had been at the center of the standoff. Restrictions on teacher assistant money — that systems MUST spend it on teacher assistants and NOTHING else — was also a Senate victory. The House wanted no strings on the money.
So, what have we learned? We’ve learned that the GOP enjoys spending other people’s money and wielding governmental influence as much as the Democrats do. So, do we replace them with Democrats? Not necessarily. They make it clear that they need to be BABY-SAT by the voters. They can’t be trusted to follow through with what they’ve told us. They can’t be trusted to live up to silly party platforms. It’s up to us to bird-dog them.
We obviously can’t elect them and just turn them loose on the treasury. North Carolina will become a mini-Greece.