Commentary

State House budget process has become a mockery of democratic governance

budgetThere were a lot of things that the Democrats did wrong while they were running the North Carolina General Assembly back in the day– especially in the state Senate — and many of them were highlighted at the time on this website. That said, the “process” now in use on Jones Street has degenerated since then to the point at which it truly makes a mockery of democratic governance.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the the development of the single most important bill that the General Assembly passes each year — the state budget. Here’s how this absurd process has worked in 2015:

Two months ago, the Governor proposed a budget. After that, the various Appropriations subcommittees held a few meetings to review what the Governor had proposed.

That’s it. There’s been no public discussion or hearings on developing or exploring alternatives. There’s been no public debate or amendments and certainly no public give and take.

Now, this morning, almost four months into the 2015 legislative session and just 45 days before the end of the fiscal year, the House released a new version of the budget (really just parts of the budget — we still don’t know about taxes and employee raises) broken into a handful of separate proposals. Naturally, there’s been no time for legislators, the news media or the public to digest the contents. The proposals were all brought before hastily called and simultaneous subcommittee meetings this morning — which effectively prohibited any one individual from reviewing any more than one or two small corners of the proposal.

At the meetings, legislators were told they’d have till noon to develop any amendments and were given a long list of 11 onerous rules (many of them absurdly limiting) with which all amendments must comply. The committee will now reconvene early this afternoon to “dispose” (and that does seem like an apt word) of any amendments that the Committee chairs deign to consider. Needless to say, no changes of real importance will be adopted.

Next week, the whole kangaroo process will be replayed at the full committee level and then on the House floor itself in just a few hours each. After that, look for the Senate to have even less  debate and input and then for the final details to be worked out in secret by a handful of key legislators.

The bottom line: It’s a common and legitimate complaint that average North Carolinians pay far too little attention to the details of what’s going on in their state government, but as the ridiculous budget process makes clear, the hard truth is that they couldn’t really follow along even if they wanted to.

4 Comments


  1. LayintheSmakDown

    May 14, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Uh, isn’t this a representative government where the public elects a person to represent them in the legislature? If you agree that is the method of governing, then there is public input into the process via the debates, committees, and other input that is taking place in the legislature. The average person does not have the time to consider every detail of the government machinations, which is why we have a representative vs. voting on every single thing. All this is just more liberal hysteria stemming from the fact that your guys are not in power any longer.

  2. gregflynn

    May 15, 2015 at 9:47 am

    The Justice Center and NC Policy Watch have been critical of secretive state budget processes since before Republicans took over the legislature. There are few if any debates. Committees are little more than viewing stands where legislators watch parades of predetermined legislation roll by, much of which has been hashed out behind closed doors between legislators and the 700 or so registered lobbyists. Amendments are readily dismissed procedurally, voice votes are decided by chairs. People that I know who are very knowledgeable about issues have scambled to get seats in small committee rooms with no audio to find out what is being proposed as it is being approved by Appropriations subcommittees. The speed of the bill process does not allow adequate time for digestion and constructive feedback.

  3. Charles Hogan

    May 21, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    this years election wasn’t that hard to understand. KochCo selected their appropriate Corporate representatives.The Vangaurd Scouts selected in the previous election set about shutting the doors to truly representative government with Election Fraud, Deceptive voter information mailers , gerrymandered districts , buying Judicial favor and positions by getting rid of public funding for judical elections to prevent bias courts. That combine attack gave North Carolina a Government for and By the Corporations the public be damn.

  4. LayintheSmakDown

    May 22, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    good to see the Kochtopus got a mention. . . why is George Soros and the Reynolds foundation not mentioned though? You do know they donate much much more to nefarious activites in the state don’t you?

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