Senate leaders repeatedly dismissed legitimate complaints from Democrats about the secret and rushed budget process during the floor debate Monday afternoon. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said the hundreds of pages of special provisions were no big deal, that 99 percent of them had been discussed for three months or more.

That’s ridiculous of course. Many of the provisions were never discussed in open committees where the public and rank and file senators–who each represent just as many people as Berger—had an opportunity to weigh in.

This morning’s News & Observer reports on one secret provision stuffed into the massive budget bill that would deal what the story accurately described as a “crippling blow” to a planned light-rail line from Durham to Chapel Hill.

The prospect of a light-rail cap never came up when House and Senate leaders developed their separate budgets this year. The Republican-led legislature previously had clamped broader restrictions on funding for transit projects.

Even folks who misguidedly opposed mass transit can’t think we ought to make major transportation policy decision by secret budget provision.
It makes you wonder else has been secretly stuffed into the budget bill that legislative leaders are so determined to pass before everybody fully understands it.



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. Read More


lottery logo.jpgJust when you think it couldn’t get any more offensive, state policymakers and the folks at the North Carolina “Education” Lottery keep outdoing themselves.

First, the Senate votes to increase lottery advertising to convince more people to throw away their money because the state refuses to raise revenue fairly and honestly. It’s no secret that low-income people play the lottery disproportionately more as a percentage of their income.

Then we hear that lawmakers are considering allowing lottery ticket sales in liquor stores and on terminals in bars and apps on smartphones, anything to entice people to play.

Now comes the news that lottery officials are selling tickets that smell like barbecue when you scratch them.

Sure does make you proud to live in such a classy state, doesn’t it?




McCrory_budget305-aGov. Pat McCrory often seems a step behind the happenings in the General Assembly. That was true again Tuesday morning as McCrory met with reporters after the Council of State meeting to discuss the budget talks.

McCrory said he supports funding teacher assistants and giving local school systems the flexibility to use the TA funding any way they see fit.  He has expressed that sentiment before as a way to settle the differences between the House and Senate budgets.

The Senate budget would eliminate funding for 8,500 TAs over the next two years and use the money to reduce class size in the early grades while the House wants to maintain funding for TAs at its current level after several years of  sharp reductions.

The latest Senate offer includes full funding for the TAs but no flexibility for the local schools to shift the money to pay for additional teachers or other classroom needs. The Senate offer also includes cutting funding for some other education programs supported by the House.

McCrory didn’t react to last night’s Senate offer that is creating a buzz at the Legislative Building. So it’s not clear if he supports it or not. Or is aware of it.

McCrory also told reporters that he has been serving as a facilitator for the two sides in the budget dispute.

“I’ve been involved in, more than anything, facilitating two groups that are, at times, in disagreement,” the governor said, “not only between the two bodies but at times even within the two bodies themselves.

You’d think McCrory would be “more than anything” pushing lawmakers to support his own agenda. You know, like a leader would do.

David CurtisSenator David Curtis recently defended the misguided and misnamed Taxpayer Bill of Rights in a story in the Lincoln Times-News about the proposal that would limit state spending based on an arbitrary and inappropriate formula.

Curtis thinks government is too big and that there’s only one way to address that.

“The only way to shrink government is to starve it to death.”

That can’t be very reassuring to people in Curtis’ district worried about their schools or roads or health care services, that he wants to starve their government to death.

Maybe he was channeling his inner Grover Norquist, who famously said he wanted to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Those anti-government types have such a pleasant and lovely way with words.