The budget battle in Raleigh continues and President Pro Tem of the North Carolina Senate Phil Berger is now talking about doing something that has to send fear straight to the hearts of his opponents.
Berger has said that if the state isn’t going to spend its money then the people of North Carolina should get a tax refund.
The state last year collected about $900 million more in taxes than projected. The budget the legislature passed with bipartisan votes in June spent about $650 million of that, which was the projected surplus at the time. A big chunk of the surplus was used to replenish the state’s rainy day fund; that emergency fund had been somewhat depleted by the extremely rainy days North Carolina experienced in 2018 with two hurricanes.
Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the budget because it didn’t include Medicaid expansion and, according to both Cooper and the Republican legislative leaders, there are no meaningful budget negotiations taking place.
The Republicans are reportedly three votes shy of overriding Cooper’s veto and it appears some of the Republican strategies are working.
Democratic legislators have been complaining about the fact that they can’t miss a meeting because the budget is constantly on the agenda and the Republican leadership could call for a vote to override the veto at any moment.
But as long as the 2019-2021 budget doesn’t become law then the state operates under the old budget, and that $900 million will just sit there unallocated and unspent.
If the state is not going to be able to spend the money, it makes a lot of sense to send it back from whence it came and that is exactly what Berger is suggesting the state do.
It appears to be a win-win for Berger. Either he gets the three votes he needs to override the veto, or the Republicans put a check in the mail to all tax paying North Carolinians, which should make the Republicans pretty popular when the 2020 elections come around.
Tax cuts are nice, but a check in the mail is niceness on a whole different level.