Hard Choices and Big Cuts

So said Gov. Bev Perdue  in describing the budget for the state of North Carolina. The $19 billion spending plan  is likely to be finalized today after one final vote. The Governor also called the budget  ” a clear win” for the people of the state. Democrats, who control  the state legislature, and have for what seems like forever, defended their work as keeping priorities intact and maintaining services for those who truly need them.

Listen to some partisan comments, while bearing in mind that the Democrats could pass the budget with no Republican support at all if they chose to do so. Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger from my home county of Rockingham wanted to know about next year when there may very well be  a $3 billion potential deficit with which to cope? Asheville Democrat Martin Nesbitt is Berger’s Democrat counterpart, serving as Senate  Majority leader. He had an interesting response to Berger’s concerns. Basically, it sounded like we’ll deal with that next year. The exact quote was, ” Whatever happens next year, we’ll face that too.” Ok, let’s not look to far ahead there folks.

There are doubtless many specific items one could examine that would prove interesting, depending on point of view, etc. I chose just one. It involves the operation of the state Ferry System which will have  a budget next year of  $43.5 million. Granted that is  a pittance in a $19 billion  package. But the figure represents an increase of more than 33%. I’m guessing there are very few programs that received as high or higher increase. Note that the increase came while road maintenance spending will show a small decrease. Don’t know how our roads can handle less maintenance, but  they will still get less.

Here is my decidedly unscientific solution for this. Charge a fee for using the ferry. Not just some of the ferries, but all of them, since right now, 94% of the cost is taxpayer subsidized. Seems there was  a House proposal to encourage the State Department of Transportation to increase fees, but even that modest idea was defeated.

There is hope since Rep Grier Martin of Raleigh  says he supports the idea of charging more. What I don’t understand is why not just mandate that 1/2 the ferry cost must be paid by fees. There would all of a sudden by $15-20 million to devote to some deserving program that is being whacked. Can’t believe ferry travelers would immediately seek alternative passage, since there isn’t any.

And just think if this small example exists in a massive $19 billion budget, there must be more near painless ways to deal with the budget crisis. Right?


June 30, 2010 - Posted by | State Politics | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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