The New Fiscal Year Starts Today. Where is Gov. Cooper’s Budget Request?

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For first time in memory, the Governor hasn’t submitted a budget request

Senate budget writers will continue saving so as to avoid devastating cuts Democrats enacted in last recession

Raleigh, N.C. — Today marks the first day of the new fiscal year. Gov. Roy Cooper did not submit a budget request to the legislature as the state faces its most dire fiscal outlook in over a decade.

Sen. Harry Brown, the Senate’s senior budget writer, said, “Leadership is easy when the state is flush. But this year, when times got tough, Gov. Cooper was nowhere to be found. Where is his budget request? His failure to submit one is an abdication of responsibility during a crisis.”

Gov. Cooper was happy to take the lead in proposing budgets that he knew the legislature wouldn’t accept. But now, with difficult decisions looming because of a $5 billion budget shortfall, Gov. Cooper took a pass.

He told budget writers that he was waiting for Congress to act before proposing a budget. But waiting on Congress has never been a particularly productive activity. The state’s fiscal year starts today, not when Congress acts.

Senate budget writers intend to continue the strategy that made North Carolina one of the best-prepared states in the country to handle the economic downturn. They will save now to plug budget holes next year and beyond.

Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson), who co-chairs the Senate Budget Committee, said, “We will continue the policies that made North Carolina one of the best-prepared states in the country to deal with this recession. Instead of spending recklessly with no thought about tomorrow, we’ll spend what we need to now but also save for next year. It would have been nice, though, to review a proposal from Gov. Cooper.”

That strategy has already paid dividends. Democrats dealt with the last recession by firing teachers and slashing their salaries. Republicans provided teachers with yet another pay raise (though it’s smaller than the raise Republicans attempted to pass last year in a straight up-and-down vote, which Democrats opposed and Gov. Cooper vetoed).

Democrats entered the last recession with hardly any money in the savings reserve. Republicans socked away for a decade, and even after two devastating hurricanes, the state had $1.2 billion in its rainy day fund plus another $2.5 billion in cash available.

Democrats sent the state into a $2.5 billion unemployment reserve deficit during the last recession, while North Carolina started this recession with a $4 billion reserve surplus.

The benefits of prudent budgeting have been obvious to any observer. Budget writers will continue those policies.

Sen. Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston), who co-chairs the Senate Budget Committee, said, “During the last recession, North Carolinians paid some of the highest taxes in the southeast and Democrats still had to gut core services like education. Perhaps that’s why Gov. Cooper decided not to bother with a budget proposal this year. Republicans have slashed taxes for everybody while dramatically increasing education investments, and we don’t expect to have to cut core services because of smart budgeting.”

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