Dollars flowing to North Carolina from Washington are not free.

They’ve been portrayed as such from a lot of opponents of GOP-sponsored bills blazing their way through the General Assembly during the opening weeks of the 2013 session.

For example, on Wednesday, Sen. Josh Stein, D-Wake, while arguing against a bill that would remake the state’s unemployment insurance system and as a result remove thousands of North Carolinians from long-term federal unemployment benefits, said that the federal dollars would have “zero costs to North Carolina taxpayers.”

On Thursday, Rep. Beverly Earle, D-Mecklenburg, referred to federal dollars for expanded Medicaid benefits as “free” money.

I just got my paycheck today, and I checked it out. The “Federal Income Tax” was the largest line-item deduction on my statement. I’m a North Carolina taxpayer, along with millions of others, and those federal tax payments are costing me.

What am I missing here?