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Daily Journal: State’s fiscal health depends on more than just one politician

Carolina Journal reported last week that North Carolina now holds a No. 9 ranking in the country for it’s fiscal health, from the free-market Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

From John Locke Foundation’s Mitch Kokai:

The overall ranking attracted attention from Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, a chief architect of state government’s fiscal policy since 2011. “Under Republican leadership in the legislature, North Carolina has climbed in the Mercatus rankings from 27th to the top 10,” Berger’s office highlighted in a news release.

“The Republican-led General Assembly has balanced the budget, rebuilt the rainy-day fund, invested record-breaking amounts in public education, and produced a pro-business environment that has created hundreds of thousands of jobs — all while cutting taxes,” Berger’s news release continued. “Growth in North Carolina’s [gross domestic product], employment, and population all outpace the national and regional averages.”

For the last two years, that General Assembly has worked with Democrat Roy Cooper in the executive mansion. One might expect that Cooper could take some credit for Mercatus’ recent kudos.

Mitch says “not so fast”. A report card of Cooper’s fiscal stewardship, issued the same day as the state’s ranking from Mercatus, gives the North Carolina governor a failing grade.

The libertarian Cato Institute assigns Cooper an F for his fiscal policies. Yep. The governor of the state with the ninth-best fiscal status earns a failing grade for his fiscal policies.

Lest you think the Cato crowd consists of particularly harsh graders, consider the following: Only one other Southern governor, John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, earns an F. Just eight governors nationwide earn that dubious distinction.

How does a governor in a state with so much recent economic success flunk Cato’s test?

“Cooper scored poorly on both spending and taxes,” according to Cato’s report. It notes the governor’s 6.5 percent proposed state government spending increase for 2019. The report also explains that the state enacted budgets with smaller spending increases only after lawmakers voted to override Cooper’s vetoes.

“On taxes, Cooper has tried to block efforts by the legislature to make pro-growth reforms,” Cato researchers add. They cite his opposition to legislated changes that “will cut taxes by more than $900 million annually.” The Cato report assigns Cooper a simple motive. “He wanted higher revenues to fund a spending increase.”

“He’s only been in office just a bit less than two years, but, so far, he’s going in the wrong direction, it seems to me,” report author Chris Edwards told Carolina Journal Radio. “He’s pushed for substantial increases in the state budget, and he’s blocked tax reductions.”

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