We’ve had a lot of rainy days in North Carolina lately, both literally and figuratively.
Literally, 2020 was one of the wettest years on record for our state. But also figuratively we had a lot of rainfall too, as people struggled in all sorts of ways because of the pandemic.
The good news is that from a financial perspective, North Carolina was prepared for those rainy days because of the fiscal discipline of the state legislature for the last decade.
We were pleased to find out this week from the legislature’s budget office that North Carolina’s economy is rebounding more quickly than expected, and state government finances remain strong, despite the extraordinary strain placed on them by the pandemic.
As we begin preparing the state’s biennial budget plan this spring, we can do so with an eye toward helping those most damaged by the coronavirus shutdowns, including small business owners and students who have fallen behind in their learning, and positioning North Carolina to continue the strong growth it was experiencing before the pandemic.
This is a stark contrast to the situation the state found itself in after the financial crisis of 2008, when the state had to furlough teachers, slash public employee salaries and make big spending cuts, despite having some of the highest tax rates in the country.
In 2010, North Carolina elected the first Republican-controlled legislature in more than a century. In the years since, we have reformed the tax code to levy lower sales, income, and corporate taxes. We now consistently rank among the best states in which to do business.
Over the last few budget cycles, legislative leaders have resolutely rejected enormous pressure from the governor to spend and borrow billions more, to sign on to expensive federal programs and to raid our cash reserves—those “rainy funds”—to do so. As a result, we can help people when they really need it.
The key now is to stay the course and to resist the call of tax and spend liberals—often aided by a sympathetic media—to indulge in ineffective big government programs to please special interests.
When we sat down to write the state biennial budget in 2019, no one anticipated that the very next year, a mysterious illness from China would upend our entire way of life for many months. However, we held firm to our conservative fiscal principles, pushing through a sensible spending plan over the veto of Gov. Cooper, whose proposed budget would have had businesses paying higher taxes and the state taking on more debt just as we were heading into the greatest public health crisis of our lifetimes.
Because of prudent budgeting, not one teacher has been furloughed, not one program has been cut and not one salary has been slashed as a result of the pandemic. Under the governor’s budget plan, I am not sure that would have been the case.
There is no doubt that North Carolina’s future is bright, and that our best days are ahead as we continue to improve our education, technology and transportation infrastructure while reducing taxes and regulation. But under the leadership of the GOP, we will make sure we stay ready for the rain too.
Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union) is a Senior Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.