News: Quick Takes

JLF: Cooper’s first budget plan would spend too much money

Gov. Roy Cooper’s first state budget proposal would expand government spending too much and emphasize some of the wrong budget priorities. Despite some positive elements, including the decision not to seek any tax increases, Cooper’s plan should get careful scrutiny as it heads to the N.C. General Assembly.

That’s the initial assessment from the John Locke Foundation’s budget team working with Senior Vice President Becki Gray.

“Increasing General Fund spending by more than 5 percent in the next year is simply not prudent for North Carolina taxpayers,” Gray said. “That’s 34 percent faster than the fiscally sustainable combination of inflation and population growth.

“It’s also a major concern that Gov. Cooper continues to emphasize his Medicaid expansion proposal, despite the fact that every sign from Washington, D.C., points to the end of that expansion component of the federal Affordable Care Act,” she added. “States like North Carolina that have not expanded their Medicaid programs look to be in much better shape to cope with whatever changes ultimately result from the work of the Trump administration and Republican-led Congress.”

“It concerns us that the governor wants to make a major expansion of one private education voucher program — serving prekindergarten students — while phasing out the popular Opportunity Scholarship Program that expands school choice for K-12 students from low-income families.

“It’s also disappointing to see the governor emphasize programs in which the government picks economic winners and losers, such as the eventual return of tax credits for the film industry.”

“It’s very pleasing to see Gov. Cooper emphasize that his budget does not increase taxes,” Gray said. “This places him squarely in opposition with the last Democratic governor, who fought the General Assembly two years in a row over her desire to raise state sales taxes to fund government overspending.

“We’re also happy to see the emphasis on adding money to the state’s rainy-day reserves and to address the unfunded liability for the State Health Plan covering government workers and retirees.”

“Let’s hope state legislators will exercise the fiscal prudence that will help them separate these good ideas from the bad,” Gray said.