by Tom Campbell, Executive Producer and Moderator, NC SPIN, March 16, 2017.
When Republicans were in the minority in North Carolina’s political power structure they frequently complained that Democrats were like a broken record. Times are good? Spend more and expand. Times are bad? Spend more to prime the pump. Are Republicans now guilty of playing the same broken record? Times are bad? Cut spending and taxes. Times are good? Cut more spending and taxes.
To be honest, when the GOP gained control of our legislature in 2011, North Carolina was struggling to recover from The Great Recession, there were large budget deficits and government had grown larger. They quickly cut spending to balance the state budget, later cutting taxes to put more money into the pockets of corporations and our citizens, in hopes the additional money would encourage spending and investments in jobs.
North Carolina’s economy, coupled with the national recovery, has improved to where we now have more than a billion dollars stored in reserves to ward off another downturn. State revenues will exceed spending by approximately a billion dollars and the state’s economic picture is bright, according to Mike Walden, one of North Carolina’s most respected economists. NC State just released the NCSU Index of North Carolina Leading Economic Indicators. The report predicted continued economic growth at the current pace for the near term.
Governor Roy Cooper’s State of the State address said that now was the time to invest in people and infrastructure. Was he correct? The answer is both yes and no. North Carolina is now in the best financial position we’ve experienced in two decades and Cooper’s budget proposals would not raise taxes or rob from reserves. It contained some sound proposals to increase funding for education, healthcare and job creation.
Cooper’s address frequently spoke to finding common ground solutions and indicated a willingness to bring progress to our state, however Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s rebuttal was disappointing. After elaborating on some of the positive accomplishments lawmakers have initiated since taking control in 2011, Berger then journeyed down the low road of partisan divisiveness, another broken record that took jabs at Democrats, the media and the narrow margin of victory by which Cooper won the governor’s race. If one didn’t know better it would be difficult to know that Republicans and the legislative branch clearly have the upper hand in power over Democrats and the executive branch. Berger wasted an opportunity to speak to a statewide audience and elaborate his and the legislature’s vision.
The writer of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes said, “For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.” Just as the time was right to cut state spending to respond to the recession, that same axiom would dictate that now is the right time to make wise investments in our state. Perhaps Cooper’s 5 percent spending increase may be a bit optimistic. On the other hand, the legislature’s target of a 2 percent budget increase may be a bit timid.
Citizens of North Carolina are tired of hearing broken records played by partisan political interests. It’s time to hear tunes of harmony coming from elected officials playing together for the benefit of all.