March 19, 2020

Keep a “social distance.”  New phrases abound from the fight against the coronavirus pandemic as we work to stay healthy and be responsible citizens.  The roughly six-foot space between you and another human being brings new meaning to the term “sphere of influence.”

Another phrase is about to be critically important in giving NC citizens hope as we cope with the economic reality of the coronavirus.  Typically, it’s used at times of natural disasters, here in North Carolina especially when we have hurricanes.  It is the Rainy Day Fund – money put aside during times of plenty and when we have a healthy economy to prepare and be ready for lean times and economic downturn.

The good news, according to a Civitas Institute article by Brian Balfour, is NC legislators have thankfully set aside nearly $1.2 billion in the Rainy Day Fund and according to a General Fund Monthly Report there is another $1.5 billion in “non-reverting Department Funds” at their disposal to deal with our state’s needs.

It takes discipline for lawmakers to have the foresight and political will to set aside Rainy Day Fund money.  When times are good and tax money is flowing into the coffers, a plethora of seemingly important projects pop up that sound like they need to be funded.  It is a great temptation to succumb to the political desire to please a section of voters and divert money for those needs.

This is one of the clearest pictures of the difference between a conservative and a liberal approach to government.  The conservative says good times never last – save for a rainy day.  Liberals say the public need is greatest now, spend the money and we’ll just raise taxes when we need it in bad times.

Balfour quotes one liberal lawmaker who criticized Rainy Day Fund set asides as “saving too much and spending too little.”  He goes on to cite the left-wing NC Budget Center in 2017 showing concern that “savings don’t squeeze out immediate needs.”

We believe in the prudence in a strong Rainy Day Fund and its “hedge against uncertainty” as described by Balfour.  We are thankful for those lawmakers who had the courage and maturity to put aside money that can be used in this current period of anxiety, uncertainty and economic calamity for our state.

So, thank a lawmaker who had the wisdom to vote for Rainy Day funds.  And for now – “keep your social distance” – “mind the gap” – “keep calm and carry on” or whatever phrase suits you to help “flatten the curve” as we all work to get through this current period of distress.