Gov. Pat McCrory unveiled his budget plan on Wednesday. While we have found much to be concerned about in McCrory’s style of close-door governance thus far in his tenure, we believe his budget proposal is a strong spending plan that shows a level of responsibility lacking in his recent predecessors.
Those recent governors seemed to have felt that forming a budget was their chance to add some sort of sweeping change or signature spending initiative that would require significant new spending. Instead, the governor has kept to his campaign theme that the state government and spending habits are broken and need to be fixed.
We might say this is a basic, return-to-fundamentals budget that we can support. That’s not to say it is perfect — certainly over the coming days details will emerge that ruffle feathers, including ours — but the overall budget, the general tone and tenor of the spending plan, looks sound.
Among the highlights:
• The total budget proposal is $20.2 billion, just 2 percent over the present budget, a reasonable and realistic spending growth;
• The governor wants to turn his attention to long-overdue state renovation needs, setting aside $300 over two years for this purpose;
• McCrory has earmarked $180 million for potential Medicaid shortfalls, rather than waiting for the shortfalls to happen and engage in crisis-driven short-term responses;
• He asks for $77 million in information systems upgrades which, we suspect, might make government run just a tiny bit more efficiently;
• McCrory wants $400 million, a figure that represents roughly 2 percent of the total spending plan, set aside in a rainy day fund to deal with unforeseen emergencies;
He also wants money for rebranding the state’s economic development efforts, money to open up 5,000 slots for preschool programs aimed at at-risk 4-year-olds, he’s calling for 1,800 fulltime teaching positions to be added across the state, and money to pay reparations to victims of the state eugenics program.
Each of these come with costs, of course. Some might not like piling up money in a rainy day fund, letting it just sit there, and some legislators, no doubt, will come up with creative ways to justify raiding that money. Adding classroom teachers means eliminating 3,200 teaching assistants; and paying victims of eugenics programs puts the state in the position of making today’s taxpayer pay for the horrible misgovernment from past generations.
However, we believe, at least on the surface, this is a strong proposal that benefits state residents and businesses. McCrory appears to be addressing some of the state’s most significant financial needs head-on, rather than kicking the can down the road to a later governor.
While pushing such decisions further into the future has become the sad expectations we have of most politicians, taking them on in the present is exhibiting a level of leadership not often seen in modern North Carolina politics.