NC Lawmakers Keep Dining while House Is on Fire

In view of the ongoing fiscal deterioration of the welfare states in Europe, America’s federal and state legislators should quickly learn how to master the noble but complex art of reducing the size of government. This art does not allow for the perpetuation of entitlement spending, a fact that has not yet dawned on our state lawmakers. North Carolina is a good example. The Raleigh-based News and Observer reports on the state budget, passed by a Republican majority:

The legislature approved a $20.2 billion state budget that includes no tax increases and 1.2 percent raises for teachers and state employees.

That’s just the General Fund, which by the way is about ten percent bigger than it was in 2011. Add to this $17.6 billion in federal funds and $14.5 billion in Other Funds spending. The total for 2011 was $51.1 billion, which in turn was 4.9 percent more than the state spent in 2010.

In other words, it is spending-as-usual times in North Carolina.

Back to the News and Observer story:

Republicans said the budget is fiscally sound, while Democrats argued it short-changes public education. By Democrats’ calculations, K-12 public schools will lose money equivalent to the salaries of 3,400 teaching jobs. “Maybe you thought nobody would notice,” said House Minority Leader Joe Hackney, an Orange County Democrat. Senate Leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, said the budget doesn’t include everything legislators want, but it lives within the state’s means. “We just don’t have the money to do everything,” Berger said. “We have the money to do what we have to do. This budget does that.”

So what is it these fiscally responsible Republican lawmakers think they have to do? With its report on the state budget, the News and Observer presents a list of assorted spending that gives a nice insight into the minds of modern, welfare-state preserving American legislators:

• $5 million for a job retraining program aimed at community college students to help the long-term unemployed

This looks like a program worth raiding taxpayers’ checkbooks for. But once you are an adult, education is an individual responsibility. Furthermore, the idea behind these programs – that government knows best what education to provide to enhance the skills of the workforce – is based on the same ridiculous notion that drives politicians to claim a government monopoly on children’s education. Or, which is even worse, to claim a government monopoly on health care. Bureaucrats, regardless of how much “experts” they are, cannot make these decisions any better than the employers who seek new employees and workers who search for jobs and learn what skills are needed on the ground.

• $1 million for a new library at N.C. State’s Centennial Campus

• $500,000 for Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte

Again, government should not be involved in the business of educating anyone, especially not adult citizens. But even that aside, why can’t NC State raise $1 million from its alumni for a new library? Why can’t they seek support from private companies that want to make a charitable donation and perhaps have the library named after them?

• $3.5 million for early learning literacy programs

This is a perfect activity for schools, and for churches. Some churches complain that they are losing churchgoers. Why not ofer literacy programs for kids as a charitable contribution to their communities?

And again, let’s not forget parental responsibility. If parents want to claim authority as parents, they also need to take the full responsibility and make the choices that benefit their children the most.

• An additional $4.5 million to fund need-based scholarships for students attending private colleges

• Increase of $18.6 million in need-based financial aid to the UNC system

This is an excellent example of how government crowds out private charity. Leave this total of $23.1 million in the hands of taxpayers and let them decide what the best needs-based causes are, statewide as well as in their communities.

To further emphasize the bad priorities in this budget, the News and Observer also reports that the budget did not include a previously made proposal…

to allow businesses to receive dollar-for-dollar state tax credits for donations to private-school scholarships.

If the state allowed this it could have saved itself a lot of money; the aforementioned $23.1 million would only be a start of those savings. This would allow the state to begin a structural downsizing of its budget and a concentration of government spending to its essential functions: the protection of life, liberty and property, and management of the state’s infrastructure. But instead of using the tough times as a platform for such reforms, North Carolina’s lawmakers double down on entitlement programs that can easily and rather swiftly be transferred to the private sector. Their attitude is to keep on dining while the house is on fire.

Looks like we need to educate our elected officials, even the Republicans, on the principles of individual and economic freedom…