President Obama famously reminded Americans when he began to establish his agenda that “elections have consequences,” and if North Carolinians remain unconvinced, a Republican budget that is poised to exit the General Assembly should be the string on the pinkie.
As Obama was winning this state’s electoral votes, becoming the first Democrat to do so since Jimmy Carter in 1976, North Carolina residents were sending a different message in statewide and local elections, that they were ready to give Republicans a turn behind the wheel. For the first time since the late 1800s, Republicans control both houses in the General Assembly, and they are making good on their promises to cut taxes and reduce government, and the pain will be coming soon to your neighborhood.
Republicans have been at times sidetracked by some social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, but the budget is an indication that they meant what they said during the election, that spoonfuls of medicine are required to get to restore this state’s fiscal health.
The plan, which has been tweaked by Republicans to satisfy some Democrats in an effort to make it veto proof, lets expire a sales tax that would have generated about $1 billion, cuts some funding for education from all levels, but, according to Republicans, adds teachers for grades first through third, and extends unemployment benefits for 40,000 people who have been out of work for awhile.
But Democrats are not sold, saying it will eliminate about 13,000 education jobs, even though, following concessions from Republicans, the $19.7 billion plan is only $220 million less than Gov. Bev Perdue sought.
Perdue, who has said repeatedly that she would veto any budget that imperils public education, called the plan a “charade.”
“There is nothing else left to cut but warm bodies,” she said. “Don’t let them fool you. They are not protecting classrooms.”
But earlier this week, a handful of House Democrats were drifting toward supporting the budget, which could take the ink from Perdue’s veto pen.
One thing is clear: The Republicans are poised to determine how this state will collect revenue and then spend it for the next two fiscal years, and the plan is much different than what we would have seen with Democrats still driving the car.
Time will reveal much about the budget, but it guarantees pain, and heightens the odds that Republicans’ reign in Raleigh will be a short one. Medicine can be awfully bitter.