Commentary

McCrory, McGrady and the absurd lack of budget transparency

State_Budget.jpgIt’s budget watch day at the General Assembly. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger say they reached an agreement Friday evening on a spending plan that includes some sort of tax reform package.

No details were released but they are supposed to be forthcoming today, though WRAL reports in its Today@NCCapitol feature that some budget staffers say it may be Tuesday morning before the full document is available.

That may be a problem, as the House has a rule that the budget must be available for 72 hours before an official vote is taken. That would mean the first vote could not be before Friday morning and because the budget likely includes tax changes, it could require two separate votes on separate days.

That would mean Saturday for final passage—but the continuing budget resolution that is keeping state government operating expires Friday at midnight.

None of this applies to the Senate. They don’t have such a rule and Pat Gannon with the Insider reports that Senate leaders expect to take their first vote Tuesday, which means most Senators will have no idea what they are voting on.

Key House budget negotiator Rep. Chuck McGrady said on Facebook this weekend that including the “tax reform package” the special provisions in the budget bill run more than 500 pages, far too much for folks to digest and understand, much less read, in less than day.

Then there’s Governor Pat McCrory, who told AP on Saturday that lawmakers should vote on the budget and the tax provisions separately, not as one massive piece of legislation.  McCrory is also worried that the final agreement may include changes in the way sales tax revenue is distributed and may expand the sales tax base to services.

He has threatened in the past to veto the budget if the sales tax changes are included. McCrory stopped short of restating his veto threat this time.

Asked whether he would veto the budget if it contained the sales tax base expansion or redistribution, McCrory said he hoped public outcry would avoid such a showdown and lead to a reworked final budget before it reached his desk.

Not much time for public outcry if the Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow. And it’s interesting that McCrory, the governor of the state from the same political party as legislative leaders, isn’t sure yet what is actually in the final budget agreement.

He’s waiting to see it like the rest of us, waiting in Charlotte where he is attending another groundbreaking ceremony in his hometown.

McCrory is still getting no respect from lawmakers. And neither are the people the General Assembly is supposed to represent as this absurdly non-transparent budget process careens wildly to close.

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