So a lonely, bored state legislator takes to twitter the other day when the legislature was snowed out, and lists items he’d like to force state taxpayers to pay for. And for some reason, this makes the news.
State Senator Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg) tweeted an imaginary narrative that – because he was alone in the legislature – he was passing a laundry list of liberal policies. The stunt garnered national attention, with Jackson’s story even appearing on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show.
One thing missing from the hubbub, however, was any pause to consider just how much all this wishful thinking would cost North Carolina taxpayers. Well, that’s why you have us.
Scanning Jackson’s twitter posts from the day in question, we can assemble a list of items he included in his imagined dictatorship. Below is the list, along with cost estimates to the best of our ability:
- Expand Medicaid – $3.1 billion over ten years; and this estimate is likely quite low as other states that have expanded Medicaid have seen actual costs far exceed projections
- Reverse “cuts” to UNC system – $235 million: From the UNC system’s FAQ page: “The cumulative budget shortfalls during the past several fiscal years have resulted in reductions to all state entities, including the 17-campus UNC system. Carolina has taken approximately $235 million in total state cuts since 2008.”
- Nonpartisan redistricting commission – costs to run the commission likely very minimal
- “heavy” investments in wind & solar energy – no estimate provided by what Jackson means by “heavy investments”, would likely be tens of millions
- Outlaw puppy mills – no estimate provided, enforcement costs likely minimal and partially offset by collection of fines
- Expand broadband access – no estimate provided, likely to cost several million
- Expand mental health care for prisoners – no estimate provided, could easily cost several million
- Fixing judicial system technology – no estimate provided, IT improvement would likely cost several million
- Bring back NC Teaching Fellows program – $3.6 million
- Support early childhood education – $400 million total ($173 million to expand pre-k to meet Leandro requirements plus $225 million to subsidize child care for kids on waiting list)
- Increase teacher pay – $1.05 Billion to bring teacher average salary up to national average
- Restore Film tax credits – $62 million in tax credits taken in 2013, which increases tax burden on everybody else
With a modest estimate for first year Medicaid expansion costs, the total to implement this wish list would cost NC taxpayers roughly $2 billion immediately, with a growing price tag going forward. Unsurprisingly absent from Jackson’s twitter page, of course, was any proposal for how to pay for his expensive wish list.
That’s one expensive snow day. Just imagine how much of our money Jackson would spend if given a whole week.