Last week, amid one of the longest long sessions in North Carolina this century, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger announced a $900 million budget surplus, along with a plan to redistribute most of the gains among the state’s 5.1 million taxpayers.
“Tax revenues don’t belong to the government,” the Randian hero chuffed during his press conference on Aug. 21.
HB 74 gives every taxpayer $125 — $250 for married couples filing jointly — which is the sort of thing politicians set up when they need to get back on the right side of public opinion.
And while no one in their right mind would blink twice at a free check from Uncle Sucker, it’s probably important to ask aloud why we had close to $1 billion lying around unused, like the glasses of ice they bring Trump with his Diet Cokes.
That our schools are underfunded is long established. Just about every public school in the Triad has temporary classrooms older than the students — and some of the teachers, who also are underpaid. There are infrastructure issues across the state, rural counties without high-speed internet access, public-transportation projects that need funding, affordable-housing challenges in every city in the state. Our voting machines and election software are out of date. And what about the long lines at the damn DMV?
There are still tornado victims in Greensboro, hurricanes gathering at out coast
Remember, too, that this windfall won’t benefit our state’s neediest workers, who don’t make enough to pay income tax. The Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that 32 percent of the state’s taxpayers will not get a refund. These low three-figure checks that do go out likely will not have much of an effect at all on the households where they land, as welcome as they may be. And it’s going to cost more than $5 million just to print and mail the checks.
Remember, too, that the reason this long session has stalled out is because of budget negotiations that hinge on a Medicaid expansion that would add trillions to the state’s gross domestic product by 2022. This makes claims of fiscal responsibility fall flat.
HB 74 passed the House way back in May, and cleared the Senate on Tuesday. It wouldn’t be a big surprise to see it get passed, because politicians love handing out money.
So enjoy your hundred bucks. You’re paying for it either way.