When Republicans won their legislative majorities in 2010 and expanded them in 2012, they ran on a platform of fiscal conservatism and reform. They’ve largely delivered on it. Tax and regulatory burdens are lower. State spending growth has been restrained. Lawmakers have implemented major changes in transportation funding and education policy.
Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan has been running hard for reelection for more than a year. Republican nominee Thom Tillis, the speaker of the North Carolina House, has been campaigning against Hagan for nearly as long. Republicans, Democrats and independent-expenditure groups have already begun their battle over control of the state legislature.
Critics of the Republican-led General Assembly allege that the teacher-pay raise included in this year’s state budget could have been implemented in a much simpler fashion: by giving across-the-board hikes to all rather than giving large raises to early-career teachers and relatively small raises to some experienced ones.
Today I’ll offer my own top fiscal priority for 2015: saving for a rainy day.
It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters most -- or so we have been assured by deep thinkers ranging from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Steven Tyler. When it comes to North Carolina’s revised 2014-15 state budget, however, the journey proved to be less an idyllic journey through the countryside than a drive through rush-hour traffic with a station wagon full of cranky kids.
I’m told that while there is no firmly established gift tradition for a 28th anniversary, the modern practice is to signify the event with an orchid.
As often happens at the North Carolina General Assembly, the new fiscal year has begun with the House and Senate not yet finished with a budget-adjustment bill. Medicaid funding, teacher compensation and a few other issues continue to divide the two chambers.
Despite all the talk of a “war on science” being waged by political conservatives and Republican politicians -- to match their supposed wars on women, men, the young, and the old, no doubt -- North Carolina now features a shrill and relentless rhetorical war on social science by political liberals and Democratic politicians.
Think that the quality of political debate is low and declining? I agree. For a recent, telling example of the problem, consider the debate about North Carolina’s participation in Common Core.
If all you know about North Carolina’s recent economic performance is what you get from Twitter feeds, partisan press releases, or brief mentions on television newscasts, then much of what you “know” is flat wrong.
Puzzled by the past several months of histrionics about North Carolina’s election-law changes? You’re hardly alone. By any objective standard, the Voter Identification and Verification Act enacted last year was commonsensical in structure and modest in potential effects.
While crafting the state budget last year, the North Carolina General Assembly applied the latest empirical research to the question of how best to improve teacher quality. In response, lawmakers have been roundly excoriated by the usual suspects -- which only served to demonstrate that the public-policy acumen of the usual suspects is, uh, suspect.
Where are America’s economic hotspots?
If you answer that question based solely on what politicians or pundits say, you might well get it wrong. You might think that Sunbelt states consistently outperform Frostbelt states, or that California’s economy is a basket case. And if your media diet is limited enough, you might think that North Carolina’s recent economic performance has been lackluster or even poor.
Liberal activists may fume, and left-wing editorialists may grind their teeth, but legislative leaders are going to defend their 2013 opportunity scholarship bill against lawsuits by the teacher union and other special interests.