The N.C. Senate, still crazy after all these years | Triangulator | Indy Week
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The N.C. Senate, still crazy after all these years 

Did you think the N.C. Senate—our legislative version of the drunk uncle who forwards you chain emails about Jade Helm 15—had wrapped up its crazy for this session? Ha! Don't be ridiculous.

Last Thursday, Jones Street's resident geniuses unveiled a straight-outta-ALEC plan to essentially bake all of their terrible policy inclinations into the state constitution. Hooray!

There are three components to Senate Bill 607: One caps the state's income tax at 5 percent, down from the current 5.75 percent, which is already a substantial reduction from the rates the Republicans inherited in 2013. The second would cap spending at an arbitrary level derived from a fixed formula that factors in population growth and inflation. Exceeding that limit would require a supermajority vote. Add those two things together, says N.C. Budget & Tax Center director Alexandra Sirota, and the state will be handcuffing itself to the tune of $2 billion a year, about 10 percent of the entire budget, locking us into Great Recession-level spending even as our elderly and school-age populations boom.

And then, to alleviate budgetary emergencies—which, if the first two parts go through, will be all the time—the Senate wants to create a rainy-day fund, to which it will divert another 2 percent of state revenues. This fund, of course, could only be accessed via supermajority. (That Grover Norquist line about shrinking government to the point where you can drown it in a bathtub comes to mind.)

The good news is that SB 607 is unlikely to become law. Constitutional amendments require three-fifths majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly—including the marginally less-nuts House—then a majority vote during a March primary referendum. As Sirota points out, elsewhere in the country where they've been floated, these caps haven't gone over well. Turns out, people actually want their kids to go to schools that aren't crumbling to the ground. Weird, that.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Raleigh Bars to city: Piss off"

Reach the INDY's Triangulator team at triangulator@indyweek.com.

  • The latest scheme to shrink government, drown it in a bathtub

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