What Honorables hath wrought

By: - August 15, 2005 5:42 am

Wilmington StarNews Online

The Lord, if He’s cared to read it, presumably knows what’s in North Carolina’s next state budget. Not many legislators do. They just voted for it or against because their political bosses told them to.

Even the governor wanted to learn more before he scrawled his Mike Easley on it.

Sure, the broad outlines were visible. The Democrats who – just barely – control the General Assembly agreed to spend $17.2 billion over the next two years for education, health, law enforcement and suchlike and to maintain or raise a handful of taxes and fees adding up to $650 million. Most striking, the new taxes included 30 cents a pack on cigarettes – not enough to please health advocates, but a sensible step forward.

Republicans said that was too much taxing and spending, but did not go into great detail about how a growing state might otherwise cover its bills and improve its public schools.

They could, of course, point to the usual assortment of bonehead projects inserted by influential Honorables, one notable example being $400,000 for a museum in Sparta that features teapots. That ought to get taxpayers steaming.

Certainly the budget didn’t squander much cash on state employees. In keeping with recent tradition, they’ll get raises of 2 percent or $850, plus another week of vacation.

But legislators weren’t completely heartless. They resisted proposals to cut medical care for poor children and for 65,000 residents who are old, blind or disabled.

As for that state-sponsored lottery, its prospects remained uncertain, if the use of potential loot did not. Instead of being kept separate from other state programs, so that it could actually increase the amount spent on schools and colleges, the budget says that the proceeds would be dumped into the general fund.

So much for the “education” lottery. Of course, it was always a fraud.

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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