Thanks to the Republicans in the General Assembly, you will have more to celebrate than usual this 4th of July weekend.
Buy a $20 lawn chair Saturday to take to your neighbor’s cookout and you will save 20 cents, thanks to the Republicans’ insistence on letting the temporary sales expire in the budget they passed a couple of weeks ago.
Don’t put that 20 cents in your pocket though. Invest it to create jobs. That’s what the Republicans say will jump-start the state’s economy. And there is plenty more where that came from — well, more anyway.
The median family in North Carolina will receive 23 cents a day from the expiration of the sales tax or just over $80 a year. That ought to be a major boost to your stock portfolio or a perfect way to start one if you are not already investing your money in the market to create jobs.
Republican legislative leaders made the decision that it was much better for you and for North Carolina to lay off teachers and teacher assistants, slash mental health services and take $2 billion out of the health care economy than ask you to keep paying that 23 cents a day that you have been paying for the last two years.
And it is really not even that much. Governor Beverly Perdue wanted lawmakers to keep 3/4 of the sales tax hike on the books to avoid making some of the most devastating cuts that the Republicans and their five Democratic fellow travelers approved.
That means you are really getting 17 cents a day more than you would have if Perdue’s budget plan had been adopted.
It’s not just the sweeping cuts in education, human services, and environmental protections that make your 17-cent windfall possible.
It is the decision to cut specific local programs too. The folks in Asheville can say goodbye to a diabetes wellness program that was funded by the Health and Wellness Trust Fund that the budget eliminated.
The Republican budget ends funding for a nationally recognized program in the Fayetteville area that raises the test scores of at-risk students through home visits and more emphasis on parental involvement.
A Wilkes County-Patriot story with the headline “N.C. budget cuts access for pre-K” explains that many kids in that county may no longer receive the benefits of More at Four or Smart Start, a scenario repeated across the state in counties big and small.
Bright high school students considering teaching as a profession can’t apply for the Teaching Fellows scholarship any more. That program is being eliminated too.
Families with a son or daughter who has been arrested for a drug offense can no longer hope that their loved one winds up in a drug treatment court and gets the benefit of its intensive supervision and rehabilitation services.
The budget eliminates the Drug Treatment Courts, part of making it possible for your 17 cents to come your way.
Then there are the teachers and teacher assistants in your community who are being laid off and the local school custodians, librarians, and counselors who are now looking for work.
Thousands of other dedicated employees are losing their jobs too, folks who work to help businesses get environmental permits or help people with a mental illness or developmental disability.
But don’t worry about any of that. The folks running the General Assembly this session sure didn’t. You getting that 17 cents starting today is the important thing. And remember, invest it wisely.
Fitzsimon is director of NC Policy Watch