To the Editor:
You may have recently heard about how the Republicans in the legislature turned a $6 billion deficit into a $1 billion surplus. This is simply not true. Furthermore, I take special exception to the special interest groups and political party that continue to propagate this blatant falsehood with the only intention being to deceive the public.
First, the November 2010 state economic forecast predicted a $6 billion shortfall. By the updated forecast in February of 2011, the anticipated deficit had fallen to $5 billion. This was the result of the economy improving slightly and not the result of any legislative action because no budgetary bills had yet been passed; let alone signed into law.
Now, let's work backwards through the numbers starting with the "supposed" billion-dollar surplus. Those dollars have already been spent. Just not all of them have been sent out. Not only are we not a billion to the positive. Come the next biennium (staring 7-1-2013), our state faces a $1.1 billion projected deficit. This would be akin to saying you or I have a positive balance in our checking account even though we've written checks that exceed the balance of the account. Those checks are in the mail. They just haven't been cashed yet.
What about $2.4 billion that was taken from our schools? Shouldn't that obligation be accounted for? Either it is an obligation and it needs to be repaid or it was actually a cut and the Republicans need to take responsibility for the largest cut to education in our state's history. I personally believe the schools need to be repaid and that obligation must be accounted for on the books.
What about the tobacco bond borrowing? Shouldn't the $1.25 to $1.5 billion required to repay the principle and interest on the tobacco bonds be accounted for? In case you forgot, the Republican legislature traded our tobacco lawsuit annuity payments for a one-time payment of a little less than $700 million to end the government shutdown.
To sum it all up, there is a $1.1 billion dollar projected shortfall, plus the $2.4 billion owed to our schools, plus the $1.25 to $1.5 billion owed to cover the tobacco bonds leaves us either $4.75 billion or $5 billion in the hole. However, being approximately $5 billion in the hole doesn't look good in an election year, so the Republicans changed the formula to no longer account for the anticipated budget deficit in the next biennium or the money owed to our schools and just chose to forget about the tobacco bonds.
In realty, we are right back where we started, $5 billion in debt. Nothing has changed. So the next time you see a shiny piece of direct mail that says the Republicans took a $6 billion deficit and turned it into $1 billion surplus, you'll know the real numbers.