The upcoming 2011 state legislative session is sure to be a contentious one, with primary focus being on balancing the state budget and its projected $3.2 billion structural deficit. Will the “temporary” tax increases enacted in 2009 be allowed to expire? Will the new leadership manage to balance the budget with spending reduction alone?
This issues will be hotly debated, and surely filled with over-the-top rhetoric. In this article published in today’s N&O, I attempt to lend some perspective to the state budget situation. A sample:
Frequently used is the rhetorical claim that state programs are grossly “underfunded.” Such claims may appeal to the sympathetic ear, but offer no perspective. Exactly what level of funding would be sufficient? Seldom is there an answer.
Next is the very real threat of some state employees losing their jobs. To paint the bleakest of all pictures, big-government advocates will list the most sympathetic of state workers, such as schoolteachers and mental health workers. Notably absent are the tens of thousands of non-classroom administrators, redundant paper-pushers or retirees pulling in six-figure pensions.
From 2001 to 2009, North Carolina state government added nearly 35,000 workers. Surely these were not all teachers or caregivers for the elderly.
Indeed, over the period 1999-2009, state-funded non-teaching “instructional support” positions in North Carolina public schools swelled by nearly 5,000. Growth in such non-classroom staffers exploded by 57 percent, nearly three-and-a-half times the growth rate of student enrollment.
In short, 10,000 state jobs could be eliminated next year and state government would still have 25,000 more workers than a decade ago.