Are Perdue’s prospective Democratic successors attacking her budget?

Top Democratic gubernatorial candidates Walter Dalton, Bob Etheridge, and Bill Faison would say no.

But Republican N.C. House Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, says an attack on the Republican state budget can’t be much different than attacking Perdue’s proposed 2011-12 budget. Why? An email from Stam offers the following explanation.

Governor Perdue’s proposed budget for K-12 public education was only about $15 million (2 tenths  of one percent) more than the 2011-12 K-12 education budget the legislature actually adopted over her veto.  So, let’s hear Faison, Etheridge and Dalton blast Governor Perdue if they are intellectually honest.  Let’s examine the facts:

There is less than 1 percent difference between the direct appropriations for K-12 public education budget than the Governor proposed.  The nominal difference is 1.43 percent directly appropriated in the ratified budget.  But after taking into account that the More at Four Program was shifted to the Department of Health and Human Services ($65,011,651 was taken from the Department of Public Instruction and used by the .Health and Human Services) for prekindergarten programs the adjusted difference is 0.57 percent.

But another adjustment needs to be made:  The General Assembly provided $28,261,830 more to counties in lottery money for a final difference of $14,947,374.  This is 0.19 percent out of a total appropriation of $7,707,586,791 for the Governor and $7,692,639,417 for the General Assembly.  The General Assembly appropriated 99.8 percent of what the Governor asked for K-12 education for 2011-12.

In providing a balanced budget during an extraordinary difficult economy, the Assembly provided only about $15 million less than the Governor even requested.  That is less than a rounding error.

Of course, another response to attacks on Republicans’ education plans would get away from the budget numbers and focus on a more important aspect of the debate: Republicans backed school choice options and other changes designed to improve the quality of North Carolina’s public education.

As Terry Stoops’ recent research has shown, North Carolina spends a lot on public education and gets an unimpressive bang for the buck. Changes that focus on quality — rather than throwing more money at the existing system — make the most sense moving forward.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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