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Senate leader changes his tune on budget negotiations

Phil Berger [1]It’s funny how a little water under the bridge and a change of jobs can alter one’s perspective on public events.

This is from a 2009 News & Observer “Under the Dome” story [2] about then-Senate Minority Leader (and current Senate President Pro Tem) Phil Berger slamming budget negotiations between House and Senate leaders — mind you, this was during a period of profound budget crisis in which the Great Recession was pummeling the state’s economy and tax revenues:

“Senate Republican leader Sen. Phil Berger said it’s another example of Democrats’ incompetence that the state doesn’t have a budget 14 days into the fiscal year.

‘For the average person, when they have a deadline and they need to get something done, they are held accountable,’ said Berger, an Eden Republican, at the weekly Republican news conference.”

Now flash forward to 2013. This is from a “Dome” story posted this morning [3]:

“That sound you heard was summer vacation plans crashing for people who work at the legislative complex in Raleigh.

The Senate budget committee approved a stop-gap bill that would keep government running for a month after the current budget expires.

Negotiations on the new tax code and a new budget are not expected to be complete by the time the budget year ends on June 30, necessitating a temporary budget to keep government running.”

Got that? What was incompetence in 2009 is apparently just good ol’ horsetrading in 2013.

Now, it’s true that Berger’s 2009 broadside wasn’t issued until two weeks into the fiscal year, but it’s also true that Berger’s 2013 stopgap bill contemplates that negotiations will continue throughout the month of July — a full 31 days past the official “deadline.” Moreover, the challenges confronting the General Assembly then were dramatically more daunting than those that confront lawmakers in 2013.

Perhaps, at a minimum, we can count on Senator Berger to bring the 2013 session to a close by the week after next — i.e. prior to the July 14 “incompetence” deadline he identified four years ago. Stay tuned.