Two stories really symbolize the state of North Carolina state government this morning on the first day of Fiscal Year 2016:
The first is the gridlock that’s starting to grip the state’s public schools. With a final state budget agreement light years away and few clear indicators from state leaders as to where things are headed — other than perhaps slashing thousands of teacher assistants — Raleigh’s News & Observer reports this morning that “At least one-third of North Carolina’s school systems are suspending their driver’s education programs this summer until they learn whether they’ll receive any state money to help pay for the classes.”
Meanwhile, the second part of the story is crystallized in yesterday’s edition of the Fitzsimon File in which my colleague Chris Fitzsimon — who has closely observed North Carolina politics for the past three decades — explained how extraordinary the latest inaction by the General Assembly is:
“House and Senate leaders couldn’t meet their budget deadline of June 30, the end of the state fiscal year, so they approved a continuing budget resolution this week to give themselves 45 more days.
Next week they will be on vacation and two weeks after that many Republican lawmakers plan to be in San Diego for the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
It’s true, as supporters of the General Assembly have pointed out, that not having a final budget by June 30 is relatively common. Lawmakers have passed continuing resolutions many summers while they hashed out final budget details.
But the resolutions usually come after some effort at negotiations between House and Senate budget writers and the extensions are usually for 10 days or maybe two weeks, not a month and a half.
And there’s never been a case when lawmakers gave themselves 45 more days and promptly took the next week off. It’s especially noteworthy coming from Republicans, who promised a more transparent and efficiently run General Assembly when they won control of the House and Senate in the 2010 election.”
In short, state legislative leaders — who promised to “run government like a business” — are instead fiddling, Nero-like, while core state services they have already badly undermined crumble around them. All in all, it’s quite a mess. Perhaps the business they had in mind was Enron.
Happy Fiscal New Year!