For more than two years the North Carolina Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform has pushed for increased openness in the legislative procedure, especially the budget process. We have made some progress and the NC General assembly has taken some positive steps. However, the current session highlights the need for greater openness and transparency and for making additional improvements in the budget process. We believe these improvements are in the best interest of continuing to restore public trust in government.
We firmly believe that there is a better way. The process should
· Be more open and accountable with decisions made in public
· Operate within a framework with an organized procedure, time frames and deadlines
· Contain a prohibition against non-money items or special provisions in the budget
· Allow legislators three days to review the budget after it is unveiled
· Make all budget information available via the internet as it is printed
· Copies of any proposed budgets from the Governor’s office or the State budget office or departments must be available at least twenty four hours before they are presented to the appropriations or finance committees
· Make all information available to legislators and legislative staff on the internal computer system available to the public on the internet
· Have at least twenty four hours for review of any proposed committee substitute by both legislators and the public prior to being discussed in a committee or a sub-committee meeting
· All committee or subcommittee meetings must be announced to members, staff, and public at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting
· All meetings must be held in meeting rooms in the Legislative Building or Legislative Office Building – not around a members desk, in their office or in a hallway
· All Finance or Appropriations Committee, subcommittee or Conference meetings must be available to the public via streaming and then available via real time audio and television broadcast once the systems are established at the General Assembly.
If the North Carolina General Assembly wants to continue to enjoy the confidence and support of our citizens, then it must open up this critical process and create a budget that truly belongs to the people of North Carolina. In the May 6th primary, North Carolinians proved that they are more than willing to participate in our government if they believe in it and if given a chance. Now is the time to give them that chance – make the budget process something that is open to all citizens.