Finally, a budget

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It says something that the North Carolina General Assembly wasn’t able to deliver a budget to the public until Monday night at 11:30 p.m.

The two-year budget cycle ended in June — since then we have been operating on a provisional budget that freezes everything in place from the previous two-year cycle. The Senate has 24 hours to digest the 500-page document before voting on it, which should take place in the editorial dead zone, after we finish the paper but before it hits the streets.

The House has a rule stipulating a 72-hour window between the moment the document becomes public and the vote, so they’ll weigh in as early as Thursday, and that more deliberative body just may vote it down. And Gov. Pat McCrory has threatened a veto over new taxes on services that he says should be considered separately.

Amazing that these conservatives who have taken our state government in the name of fiscal responsibility have been unable to figure out how to spend our money for so long.

But let’s say this sucker passes — which it likely will. We’re in for some changes. Some education spending is back in: Starting teachers get a bump in pay from $33,000 to $35,000, class sizes are reduced to a 16:1 ratio, teachers’ assistants are back in and all state employees get a $750 bonus, which beats a sharp stick in the eye but won’t do much to build morale.

The historic tax credit is back, ending its usefulness as a bargaining chip but restoring incentives to invest in old buildings. The film credit is back, too, up to $30 million, which could entice some production that virtually disappeared in the state after the credit was removed in 2013.. That whole deal where rural counties get a share of sales taxes collected in the cities is a go, though it has been altered somewhat: An $84.8 million fund collected from some sales taxes will be redistributed among rural counties, even though the redistribution of wealth is something that cuts against the principles of almost every Republican lawmaker.

ncleg, pat mccrory, state budget, historic tax credits, film incentives

The most egregious blow to progressives comes in the elimination of renewable energy tax credits — wind, solar and the like — which now have no incentives other than to keep our air, soil and water clean.

That and the fact that this budget is regressive in its premise. More than $400 million in tax cuts have been introduced, mostly in personal income tax, which has been cut down to a flat 5.499 percent but was once as high as 7 percent, and a lower corporate income tax, which was dropped to 5 percent back in 2013. The deficits will be covered in those taxes for services that McCrory has such a problem with, which will disproportionately affect low-income households.

In broad strokes, the budget is not as bad as it could have been — evidence of the political process working as it should.

But the best thing about it is that it actually exists, even though it is three months late.