The following article represents the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Civitas, its Board of Directors or staff.
In today’s News & Observer article House panel OKs taxes Speaker Hackney made some regrettable remarks concerning yesterday’s tax and budget fight in the finance committee. He said that the Republican claims that there is a much lower "shortfall" than the Democrats’ claim of $4 billion is a "fraud." He said we Republicans won’t vote for spending cuts and we won’t vote for tax increases. He said that we will not do our constitutional duty to balance the budget.
These claims made by the Speaker about Republicans to the capitol press are not accurate. I will vote for what are called "cuts" if I get to be a real part of the decision-making process with full information from staff and the ability to suggest alternatives. I have offered my help from the start and indicated my willingness to help take the heat for what must be done. The process I recommended was to build the budget from ground up in a zero-based manner open session. This offer was rejected by conduct as the Democrats went right back to the old, failed way of allowing a select few to call all the shots and make all the decisions behind closed doors. Many of the "cuts" they proposed were not serious proposals but were intended only to stir up pressure on the legislature to do what the Democrats wanted all along – to increase taxes. I am not here to simply rubber-stamp what those currently in power come up with in a closed process and then hand to the rest of us. My position is that no tax increase discussion should take place until we see what the budget constructed from ground up funding only the critical priorities would require in availability. I believe the 19 billion dollars plus in our current availability this year would be sufficient to run an effective and efficient state government and a first-class education system with no need to burden struggling taxpayers with yet higher taxes – over ten percent of whom are unemployed.
So it is totally false to assert that I will not do my constitutional duty. In addition to preparing a good budget this year, I see it as my constitutional duty to put reforms in place that will keep the present situation from recurring in the future. I filed several bills to help do this, but the Speaker who claims I will not do my constitutional duty used the extra-constitutional powers conferred on him by the majority to make sure my proposals were not even discussed. I warned last year on the floor that this current budget would not work and was one of the no votes. It would seem that those who made this mess might show a little respect toward those who tried to prevent the mess from ever occurring.
Finally, as to the size of the shortfall, it is a highly defensible position (actually, it is the most intellectually sound position) to defined the "shortfall" we are facing in the coming fiscal year as the mathematical difference between this year’s ACTUAL spending and next year’s NEEDED spending – not last year’s wished-for spending versus this year’s worst-case scenario. Clear, easy, basic, third-grade level math shows that the Democrats’ claim of a four billion dollar shortfall is exaggerated by at least a factor of four. I will leave it to others to determine whether the claim of a four billion dollar shortfall designed to induce support for the largest tax increase in North Carolina’s history is itself fraudulent. Calling something said by someone a "fraud" is the same as calling someone a liar. I feel that all of us have been called liars concerning the most critical business before this institution by the Speaker in a major newspaper (and maybe in others I have not read) which covers this institution.
Representative John M. Blust (R – Guilford)