Up & Coming Weekly

February 11, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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8 UCW FEBRUARY 12-18, 2020 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM house ad Dental Insurance Product not available in all states. Includes the Participating Providers and Preventive Benefits Rider. Acceptance guaranteed for one insurance policy/certificate of this type. Contact us for complete details about this insurance solicitation. This specific offer is not available in CO, NY; call 1-888-799-4433 or respond for similar offer. Certificate C250A (ID: C250E; PA: C250Q); Insurance Policy P150 (GA: P150GA; NY: P150NY; OK: P150OK; TN: P150TN). Rider kinds B438/B439. 6154-0120 Call today for all the details. 1-888-491-5108 l l Here's the information you requested on Dental insurance FIRST-CLASS MAIL Call now to get this FREE Information Kit! dental50plus.com/ucweekly Preventive care starts right away Helps cover over 350 services Go to any dentist you want – but save more with one in our network No deductible, no annual maximum Get dental insurance from Physicians Mutual Insurance Company to help cover the services you're most likely to use – Fillings Crowns Dentures X-rays Cleanings State's economy flourished in 2019 by JOHN HOOD I gather from my social-media feeds and hate mail that North Carolinians are supposed to be infuriated at the way things are go- ing in our state. I have my frustra- tions with certain politicians, to be sure, but I'm not infuriated. Nor am I alone. North Carolina continues to boast a thriving economy, pru- dently managed finances and many popular places to move to for jobs, incomes and quality of life. The growth isn't equally dis- tributed, of course. It never has been. But compared to its peers, North Carolina is doing rather well. Consider the latest job-market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. North Carolina employ- ers added about 94,000 net new jobs in 2019, up 2.1% from the previous year. That growth rate exceeds that national (1.4%) and Southeastern (1.6%) averages. Indeed, our state had the ninth- fastest rate of job creation in the nation last year. Comparisons like these can vary over time. Did 2019 just hap- pen to be a good year? If we look at a longer-term trend, the outcome is still posi- tive. Since 2013, North Carolina employers have added about 500,000 net new jobs, a 12.2% in- crease in overall employment. That rate exceeds the nation's (10.9%) and the region's (11.7%). Our region, the Southeast, includes lots of other fast-growing states — most of which are also governed by fiscally conservative legisla- tures, by the way. Nevertheless, if North Carolina had simply added employment at the average regional rate since 2013, we would have ended up with 18,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2019. If we had only matched the national rate, the job count would be 52,000 lower. We mainly desire a strong economy because of the benefits it confers on private individuals and households. But if you want your govern- ment to deliver necessary public services at an economical price while saving against a rainy day and otherwise leaving you alone, a flourish- ing economy is highly preferred to a floundering one. According to the latest figures from the state controller's office, revenues to the state's general fund for the first six months of the 2019-20 fiscal year are up $471 million over the same period of the previous year. General fund spending is up, too, by $317 million. The lack of a final budget agreement between Gov. Roy Cooper and the General Assembly doesn't mean expenditure levels were entirely frozen. On a cash basis, the general fund budget has run a $542 million surplus halfway through the fiscal year. Keep in mind that revenues and expenditures don't distribute evenly across all 12 months, however. The April revenue numbers, reflecting prior- year tax payments, tend to have an outsized effect on state finances, for example. Still, it would be fair to say that North Carolina's financial picture was solid as we began 2020. The state has $1.2 billion in its rainy-day reserve plus hundreds of millions in various other reserve accounts. It also has a whopping $2.15 billion unreserved credit balance in the general fund. If there is a budget deal, that balance will fall — and that will be fine. The budget passed by the legislature contained valuable con- struction projects and welcome pay raises for public employees. The point is that, failing some unfore- seen disaster, North Carolina will have sufficient revenues to address the state's immediate needs while continuing to accumulate reserves to shield taxpayers against the downside risk of a future recession. Conservatives may see these fig- ures and conclude some additional tax relief would be a good idea. Pro- gressives may see these figures and conclude there would be no finan- cial risk if North Carolina expanded Medicaid and other entitlement programs. I agree with the former and disagree with the latter, no doubt shocking no one. However you think state policymakers should respond to the current moment, I think you should take seri- ously the idea that North Carolinians who reject apocalyptic rhetoric from both parties are being quite sensible. They can see things are good and getting better. North Carolina's financial picture was solid as we began 2020. OPINION JOHN HOOD, Chairman of the John Locke Foundation. COMMENTS? Editor@upandcomingweekly.com. 910- 484-6200.

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