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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Shafting the poor - or trying to

Good or bad, the budget of the State of North Carolina for the next fiscal year is finalized. If you don't live here, you missed the melodrama of a Democrat Governor and newly elected and predominantly Republican General Assembly at war over money. This week the Republicans won, with the help of five defections among Democrats in the House whom we can label DINOs (Democrats In Name Only).

The most hotly debated aspect of the budget was money for education. As background, the predominantly Democrat General Assembly of 2009 couldn’t – or, more accurately, wouldn’t – balance the budget without new taxes; they took the path of least resistance and increased the state's sales tax rate by 1% until July, 2011.

July, 2011 is now two weeks away. The economy still stinks, of course, and tax revenues have not improved. Democrats wanted to extend most of the 1% bump for at least another year and allocate the additional revenue it would generate to education. Republicans were opposed, so that the 1% would expire as planned and the requisite cuts in spending would ensue.

Without joining the debate over how much money should be spent on education – a topic for another day – I call attention to the unfortunate inconsistency of my own party's position. Democrats are supposed to be responsive to the plight of the poor. I mean, the “dirt poor" who live all over North Carolina. But a higher sales tax, as supported by Democrats in 2009 and again in 2011, is regressive and inflicts more economic pain on the poor than on the wealthy.

Simply put, Democrats are willing to shaft the poor in order to protect teacher jobs – even though the poor voted overwhelmingly to send Democrats to both Raleigh and Washington in 2008.

Look for low voter turnout among the poor in 2012. Besides that, the prioritization that Democrats now espouse disturbs me deeply on principle. I've heard no other Democrat here object, but it has become an issue in California where a Democrat governor has advocated likewise.