Tarheeltalker

Celebrate, Celebrate,We Passed a Budget

And celebrate they did, complete with lobbyists and fundraising and  many  prominent state Democrats in attendance. Headlining the event were Gov Bev Perdue and the head honchos of the State Senate, Marc  Basnight and State House, Joe Hackney.

What it was, was the 2010 Legislative Reception at the headquarters of the N C  Democrats, a mere block from  the Capitol. For only $50 per person one could hobnob with he most powerful pols in the state. But, according to party executive director Andrew Whalen it was all above-board. The event  is nothing more than a thank you from the party to the legislators for  a job well done. Of course there were no Republican legislators present. Anyway, Whalen went on to say that the money raised would go pay basic party expenses which for some  reason included the elevator repairman. Seems interesting to me for that to be included along with  the water bill and the electric bill. perhaps it’s Democrat code for something, who knows.

Anyway, a number of  Democrats seemed to be in the dark about who was actually there. Sen Linda Garrou, as she hurried inside, denied knowing that lobbyists were present. Oh, forgot to mention that, lobbyists were present but were enjoined to remember that no money raised  could go to a candidate or  the committee of a candidate. Another attendee was Rep Deborah Ross who also declined to answer questions before rushing inside. Secretary of State and U S Senate candidate Elaine Marshall admitted to knowing the event was  a fundraiser but did not know who was on the invitation list. By the way, her office regulates lobbyists.

Speaker Hackney seemed offended by questions about the event and emphasized that it was the state party raising money and not him personally and that it was all legal and proper. The question asked of him was whether he thought voters would consider it wrong to raise money from lobbyists while the legislature was still officially in session.

Of course, everything was just as open and honest as the day is long. Besides it must take a lot of money to pay those elevator repairmen.

July 1, 2010 Posted by | State Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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 | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment