Fiddling while North Carolina Burns
New GOP NC House Speaker Thom Tillis may not actually be a Roman, but I had a couple of Nero moments over the last few days. First, Tillis headlined an anti-abortion breakfast where he assured the group he would immediately get hard at work at passing more restrictions on abortion in North Carolina. “There’s nothing more important than what you’re doing here,” Tillis intoned. Can he really be that sure? Right next to the story, Rob Christensen’s column entitled “State’s ‘chambers of pain’” detailed the huge looming cuts to government services being contemplated in Raleigh by…who exactly? Apparently not Tillis, who clearly has other priorities.
I guess we could all breath a sigh of relief about that if our budget situation wasn’t so dire that even with commonsense tax changes – like not allowing the temporary sales and upper income bracket tax to expire this year – serious cuts to the government services we all depend on will have to be made.
But, as Tillis and his fellow GOPers are finding out, actually governing is pretty hard. It’s easier to fire up the base on the hot-button social issues, something you get pretty comfortable with being in the minority. The only problem is now Tillis and company are actually piloting the ship instead of organizing dances on the starboard deck.
Take state ferries for instance. Just a couple days before the Tillis breakfast, Tillis’s second in command, House Majority Leader Paul Stam, was “detailing” how GOPers would deal with the huge state budget cuts. We’ll “right-size” state government he said, which apparently means requiring photo IDs from voters, giving tax credits to parents who send their kids to private school, and, drum roll, the big idea for closing NC’s $3.7 billion budget hole: charging people more to ride state ferries.
Unfortunately Stam’s disconnect from reality was thrown into sharp relief by another neighboring story entitled “UNC system could lose 2,000 jobs.” Those cuts include 1,000 faculty members and will mean much bigger classes and fewer courses for thousands of students.
Clearly, there are some adjustment problems transitioning from the minority, but this sort of bush-league toadying up to the special interests while refusing to actually deal with the state’s real problems can go on only so long before voters get fed up. After all it was another NC GOPer, Rep. John Blust, who cautioned his fellow Republicans after the November election not to read a huge mandate into their victories because voters were frustrated less with those in power than the sour economy.