Bright Side to Shutting Down Government

By: - July 7, 2005 5:28 am

The Pilot


The finger-pointing and posturing among House and Senate leaders fighting over legislation to keep state government running past the July 1 start of the fiscal year provided some good theater recently.

But all this talk about state government shutting down has me thinking what you’re thinking: Would anyone really notice?

After all, the dog days of summer have begun. The kids are out of school. Half of the state employees are on vacation. The other half are thinking about days of repose at their favorite beach.

Sure, we wouldn’t want prison guards to walk away and toss the keys to inmates on their way out. We wouldn’t want health clinics serving the poor to shutter their doors. And no one wants to see road repairs stop or state ferries in dry dock (got to get to those beaches, after all).

Still, there could be some advantages to this government shutdown business.

After all, if the legislative staff locked the doors to the Legislative Building and went home, who would ever come back to let lawmakers inside? The ensuing chaos might at least give us a break from any new laws for a few weeks.

And what would happen if Gov. Mike Easley’s driver failed to show up in the morning? Pedestrians in Raleigh certainly wouldn’t be safe, but once the guv hit the nearest wall, he would be stuck hoofing it. No new plant locations to announce. No press conferences to complain about legislative budget plans. No rounds of golf with Tony Rand and the boys.

Also, Easley and Commerce Department officials would have no million dollar cash grants or tax breaks to hand out to the latest company bringing a plant or a headquarters building to North Carolina. Bereft of these incentives, we might see whether the Dells of the world would really end up in Virginia or South Carolina.

With the cash pipeline to the state’s public universities clogged, there would be no money for the freshmen reading program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We could enjoy a summer without endless news stories in which conservatives and liberals drone on about the relative good or evil contained in the pages of the latest reading selection.

We might also look forward to a few personal perks.

No one would be on hand to collect those user fees at Lake Jordan. No one would be around to lock the gates at Fort Macon and prevent a little night fishing from the rock jetty. And I’ve always fantasized about swimming with the seals at the North Carolina Zoo. Who would stop me?

But with state government, I suppose you must take the good with the bad.

Kids need schooling. Prisoners need guarding. Pot holes need fixing. The aged and the sick need tending.

Like it or not, we need most of the services that government provides. And even those legislators are good for some entertainment value once in a while.

Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association.

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066