N.C. Democrats brace for more of the same

N.C. Democrats brace for more of the same
April 20
06:00 2017



State Senate Democrats, like Sen. Paul Lowe (D- Forsyth), are hoping that the upcoming Republican state budget is not as punishing to the poor as in years past.

“It may be more of the same,” Sen. Lowe told The Chronicle last week, speaking cautiously. “I hope not, but it may be.”

Several weeks ago, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper unveiled his 2017-18 budget proposal, the first of his new administration, that called for increased state government spending by $1.1 billion in order to primarily improve education – pre-school to college – making the state a national leader in education by 2025.

The Cooper $23.4 billion budget would also give teachers a 10-percent raise over two years,  expand Medicaid coverage for over 600,000 North Carolinians, and restore tax credits

Democrats in the legislature, naturally, applauded the governor for his vision and budget priorities.

“Governor Cooper’s budget makes investments in North Carolina’s greatest resource: its people,” said state Democratic Senate Whip Terry Van Duyn in a March 1 statement. “

“We are very encouraged to see Governor Cooper’s people-first agenda,” Sen. Van Duyn continued. “These priorities reach out to groups that have been marginalized by the Republican leadership over the past six years in favor of corporate tax breaks. It’s added up to a big payday for corporate bosses, but has left workers struggling to make ends meet.”

Legislative Republicans, for their part, weren’t as impressed with Gov. Cooper’s budget proposal, accusing Democrats again of “overspending,” with Senate Leader Phil Berger (R- Rockingham) saying that the GOP believed in “returning hard-earned tax dollars to our taxpayers.”

State GOP legislative leaders are expected to release their budget plans shortly now that Easter has passed, and Democrats are indeed expecting more of the same as in previous years – massive tax cuts for corporations and the rich, meaning more cuts to education and less social investments to help pay for them.

Last year, the state budget from the Republican-led NC General Assembly featured $400 million in income tax cuts, which were offset by new sales taxes on repair, installation and maintenance services paid mostly by low-to-moderate income families.

During his district town hall meeting last month in Raleigh, Senate Minority Leader Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake) also said he expected Republican leaders to lean toward more tax cuts for the wealthy and increasing taxes for the working class.

On April 5, Sen. Blue wrote on his Facebook page, “The Senate just passed the “Billion Dollar Middle Class Tax Cut” bill. Sounds good, right? But I voted against it for several reasons. Here’s the reality of the bill.”

Blue continued, “The tax cuts average out to $80 per person, going from a $55 tax reduction for those making less than $55,000 and up to $680 for those making $200,000 or more. It also reduces the corporate tax rate to one of the lowest in the nation.”

“If this were truly a middle class tax cut, corporations and those making over $200,000 a year would be excluded from this bill. My colleague, Senator Ben Clark, tried to run an amendment to this point and Republicans voted against it.”

“The bill will go to the House for final approval,” Blue said.

What has been evident when Republican leaders have cut social programs like Medicaid in the past, is that North Carolina has been running higher and higher budget surpluses. Two months ago, state officials projected $552 million in budget surplus revenues. In 2016, the amount of state income taxes collected was $425 million, while 2015 saw about $400 million.

House Republicans say the surpluses are a result of “…a commonsense, conservative approach to state government.” Translation, say Democrats, leaner social programs, and even more taxes for the low-to-moderate income taxpayers.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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