(This editorial originally appeared in The Daily News of Jacksonville.)
The state capital is hooked on money — your money. That’s at least true of the N.C. House of Representatives, which has just approved a $20.3 billion budget for the 2007-2008 fiscal year.
Despite having a $1.1 billion surplus, House members couldn’t resist extending a quarter-percentage point sales tax and a surcharge on the state’s top income bracket for two years.
These taxes were originally enacted in 2001, when the nation was in the middle of a recession that was complicated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The taxes were supposed to last just two years, to provide enough money to make up for a decline in revenues as a result of the sluggish economy.
The powers that be in Raleigh couldn’t leave well enough alone. Instead of keeping their word and allowing those taxes to expire, they chose to extend them for another two years — not once but twice. They were extended in 2003 and in 2005.
Now the House wants to extend the tax increases for a couple more years.
Why? Because the politicians appear to be addicted to spending, at least when it comes to spending other people’s money.
They don’t see a billion-plus-dollar surplus as an opportunity to let the working people of North Carolina keep their own money. Instead, they see it as an opportunity to expand government and pay for pet projects.
Those taxes make up about $300 million of the state’s general fund, or a little more than 1 percent of next year’s budget. If House budget writers had exercised just a little bit of discipline, they would have been able to cut spending enough to allow those tax increases to expire.
Fortunately for the taxpayers, a number of leaders in the Senate see the light. They think enough is enough and have indicated that they would like to see the taxes expire come June 30.
Wage earners and consumers in North Carolina were required to sacrifice more during the 2001 recession by paying higher taxes; they shouldn’t be required to continue paying for politicians’ lack of spending discipline.