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SenateOne thing that’s become increasingly clear about the Senate “budget” bill that received final approval this morning is this: it’s a heckuva lot more than just a budget. As today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File highlights powerfully, a more apt moniker for the Appropriations Act of 2013 would be something like “the Right-Wing Legislative Catchall Act of 2013.” 

The darned thing includes a secretly-authored provision to move the State Bureau of Investigation, a new scheme to discourage hybrid and electric cars, a provision to funnel money to fake medical providers at so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” a provision to eliminate meaningful legal representaion for incarcerated individuals that had been ordered by the courts, a provision to repeal the law that mandates “Education Lottery” proceeds go to education,  as well as disastrous plans to decimate early childhood education and the health care provided to pregnant women. There are, of course, dozens of others.

The bottom line: While no one is denying the conservative majority in the Senate its right to pass whatever legislation it wants to put forth, Senator Berger and his cronies ought to at least have the decency to hold timely, publicly-noticed discussions of the ideas that they are acting to make the law of the land before they’re passed.

Failing that, they ought to at least alter the inaccurate and incomplete name attached to the massive statutory overhaul they just passed.

This just in from the Budget and Tax Center:

BTC Statement: Senate budget “fiscally irresponsible”
This budget harms the foundations of economic growth, sets stage for tax plan which will force most to pay more

RALEIGH (May 23, 2013) — The budget passed by the Senate today is fiscally irresponsible. Senators approved a spending plan without details on how they will pay for it. Instead, they put in a place-holder for their tax plan that will cost $770 million over two years, meaning higher taxes for middle- and low-income North Carolinians, and cuts to investments that are vital to our state’s economy.  Read More

Phil BergerThe experts at the N.C. Budget and Tax Center will be out with more detailed analyses in the hours and days to come, but here are some preliminary takes on state Senate President Phil Berger’s big tax plan announcement/opening salvo in his race for the 2014 GOP U.S. Senate nomination:

#1 – Same ol’, same ol’ – This is what we had to wait more than four months for? After all the delays and big promises, all Berger and his aides could come up with was a plan to slash the state’s most progressive taxes (i.e. the personal income tax, the  corporate income tax and the inheritance tax) and raise more money from the tax that hits poor and middle class people the hardest — the sales tax. Oh, and since the plan won’t bring in the revenue necessary to keep government going at its already underfunded levels, the plan also contemplates lots more spending cuts to essential services. No wonder these guys are championing bills to raise class sizes and cut pre-K!

#2 – Perverting a good ideaRead More

Phil BergerNorth Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger was once a semi-reasonable guy. Conservative? Certainly. But during the first several years of his tenure in Raleigh, Berger mostly came across in a way you might expect from a middle-aged, small town, Republican lawyer: Traditional and pro-business, but pleasant, intelligent and friendly enough. Though progressives seldom found themselves agreeing with Berger, he was someone who with whom a person could have a discussion (and maybe even find some common ground).

Something happened in recent years, however, to the old Phil Berger. Especially since he became Senate leader and developed ambitions for higher office (either for himself or his kid), the old, semi-friendly small town lawyer has been replaced by a meaner, edgier, much more reactionary Phil Berger. Sometimes you almost feel as if you’re watching someone trying to play a role. His policies and policy statements are uniformly reactionary and harsh while those of his staff members are frequently even more extreme.

For a case in point, check out this story in today’s Fayetteville Observer. Read More

Phil BergerWRAL has video of all 36 minutes of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger’s surprisingly far-ranging press conference today and today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File will have a thorough analysis shortly.

For those looking for some preliminary quick takeaways, however, here were a few of the highlights/low-lights:

Berger has decided to go all in with the far right agenda and appears to see it as his pathway to seeking the GOP nomination to take on Kay Hagan in 2014. Moreover, his legislative “agenda” was/is an utterly predictable recitation of Locke Foundation/Civitas/Art Pope priorities: Read More