During recent briefings to discuss preparations for the storm, Gov. Roy Cooper exhorted North Carolinians to be prepared for the hurricane and its aftermath.
While North Carolinians need to be responsible and make preparations for the storm, it’s a fair to ask the governor: Is North Carolina prepared?
Two months ago, Cooper vetoed the state budget; a budget that included over $700 million to replenish the state’s rainy day fund. Evidently the governor is not on board with such decisions. Cooper’s own budget recommends setting aside only $184 million over the next two years for the rainy-day fund.
Truth be told, last year North Carolina spent over $750 million on hurricane recovery efforts. The state was able to assist in meeting these needs because leaders had the discipline and foresight to put aside money for when it was needed.
As of June 30th 2019, the rainy day fund had a balance of approximately $1.2 billion. That may seem like a lot, but we all know it only takes a couple of major storms to quickly deplete the balance.
It’s prudent for lawmakers to rebuild the rainy day fund. Under Gov. Cooper’s plan however, it will take at least four years to replenish the funds that had been used to recover from Hurricane Florence. The governor’s counter budget matches the funding the legislature allotted in the state budget and in 2017 Cooper signed legislation to increase North Carolina’s rainy day fund. However, Cooper also warned — on more than one occasion — about having too much in the fund.
However, there is reason to wonder about the governor’s convictions and judgement.
As John Hood noted, during the 2016 gubernatorial campaign, Cooper blasted then Governor McCrory for ‘building up the rainy day fund in excess of what’s necessary for the state.” In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, Cooper and other Democrats called on legislative leaders to appropriate funds for hurricane relief, the very funds they had earlier said were “excessive.” It was a massive miscalculation on the Democrats’ part.
The governor’s veto put budgets in limbo and jeopardizes over $700 million in appropriations for the state’s rainy day fund. Republicans have sought to redress the budget impasse by passing a series of “mini-bills” that include pay raises for state workers and also refunds for those who paid state income taxes. Republicans want to refund $680 million of a projected $900 million revenue surplus. Under the legislation 5.1 million North Carolinians would receive tax refunds of up to $125 for individuals and $250 per couple. The legislation can provide needed relief to taxpayers some of whom have much more to worry about. The Senate passed legislation approving the tax refund. However, the legislation must still be approved by the House. Cooper called the piecemeal budget bills “another trick that is bad public policy” and it is uncertain whether Cooper would sign tax refund legislation.
Hurricanes don’t wait until the state has enough savings on hand before they hit. The rainy day is here for many North Carolinians.
North Carolinians know they must prepare for the storm and be able to recover from the damage. Tax refund legislation and prudent planning can help address our current needs. It’s time for Gov. Cooper to stop holding the budget hostage to Medicaid expansion, and allow state government to meet its responsibilities to those in need.