Talking instead of posturing would help N.C.

| June 30, 2014

nc-state-legislature-building-legislative-branch-150x150Editorial by Fayetteville Observer, June 30, 2014.

Deadlines in politics have a way of being ignored, usually at additional cost to the governed. That’s the case with North Carolina’s budgetary process. Today is the last day of the fiscal year, and if legislators were going to implement a new budget to replace the old one and avoid a number of problems that leaving the old in place will trigger, they should have done it already. Or at least they should have it done by the end of business today. Don’t hold your breath.

House and Senate leaders may be further apart on a budget deal today than they were when this short session began months ago. Short of a last-minute deal, the old budget will remain legally in effect until they come up with a compromise. They can stay in session to negotiate, which seems likely. They can also give up and go home, which would be unfortunate, though it would save taxpayers tens of thousands for each day they aren’t in session without making progress.

At the heart of their differences is Medicaid funding, though it’s also become intertwined with teacher pay and staffing levels for teacher assistants. Senators have complained that estimates for Medicaid costs come in too low each year and want to set aside more money to handle that problem. Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget director, Art Pope, has said that’s unnecessary and a bad idea. Allotting so much for Medicaid will force the state to slash positions for teaching assistants, who can’t easily be rehired if the funding emerges later. Pope and state House leaders favor a more modest sum for Medicaid than can be adjusted out of state reserve funds later if necessary.

The Senate also wants to offer heftier increases in teacher salaries than the House and governor, which would only make the cuts for teaching assistants deeper. While the House’s approach – modest teacher raises, modest funds set aside for Medicaid and no reduction in teaching assistants – makes the most sense, negotiations might identify some additional ways out of the conundrum.

But instead of trying to reach a workable compromise, both sides seem to be busy getting their egos injured and vying in lame attempts to score political points with a public that’s not really paying attention.

This year, as much as any, points to serious problems with our budget system in North Carolina. We shouldn’t leave so much in limbo at the 11th hour.

Maybe they can tackle the system during the next session. For now, let’s hope they can pass a decent budget.

Category: NC SPIN Perspectives - Opinions from NC Leaders & Organizations

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  1. Norm Kelly says:

    The ’11th hour’ defines politicians and how they work. What’s different this year or different in our state from anywhere else? This year, it’s the Republicans that can be blamed. And blame the libs will. Is it right? No, but it wasn’t right for the past (roughly) 100 years that the demons controlled Raleigh either. So what’s different now? Libs in the media can continue to build the wedge between the voters and the elected, because the elected are Republicans who don’t have the libs best interest in mind.
    Has this budget thing happened before? Nope. When the libs controlled Raleigh the budget was done on time every year, with major cuts to spending allowing citizens to keep more money in their pockets. At the same time, extra money was always found to buy more benefits for certain groups of people, money was found to fund a tea cup museum, money was found to buy the wrong ferry to transport kids to outerbanks schools. But this time around, Republicans can’t seem to get their act together. They can’t agree on how much money to spend, what to spend it on, and whether cuts to ANY program is even necessary. You see, this is an argument that lib pols never had to have. Primarily because libs don’t like cutting ANY spending. The only time a lib pol cuts spending is when it’s a cut in the amount of growth, but a cut they tell us anyway. Spending actually went up, so we all know it’s not a cut. But since it was a reduction in the amount they wanted to increase spending, they call it a cut while actually increasing spending.
    My wife and I are cutting our household budget as well. We decided at the beginning of this year, when everyone makes resolutions, that we would cut our movie-going budget by 15% this year. This would include the number of movie tickets we purchased as well as our snacking while attending the movie. (of course we would make sure NOT to sprinkle salt on our popcorn in order to keep it healthy!) How much is an average movie? Let’s consider that we spend $9 per ticket, plus about $9 per person for snacking. That’s $36 per night, per movie, for a date night for us. Considering we wanted to reduce our movie budget by 15%, this would mean either reducing the cost of the ticket, reducing the cost of the snacks, buying fewer snacks each time, or going to fewer movies but spending the same amount each time. So we did what every pol does, we looked at last years movie spending with an eye to our desire to see movies this year while maintaining our 15% budget reduction. $36 per night – 15% even in the new, Communist Core, math comes out to a reduction of $5.40 each night. So how much did our budget go down? None. It went up by $252.80, roughly, so far this year. Why you may ask did our spending go up when our budget was reduced by %15? Cuz we used good ol’ politician budget calculations, exactly like pols do when they increase spending and tell us they cut the budget. How many movies have we seen this year to achieve our reduced spending? 8. At $31.60 per night, 8 nights, we get a total spending of $252.80. If we had previously spent $36 per movie night, then we’ve achieved our budget reduction of 15%. Except in the last 6 months of last year we had seen ZERO movies and our movie night spending was $0. So even though we reduced our movie night spending by 15% this year, since we’ve been to 8 movies, we’ve actually had a spending increase. Exactly the way most pols do it and EXACTLY THE WAY EVERY LIB POL achieves a ‘budget cut’. Did we spend less money? No, but our budget was reduced. Therefore, by pol logic, our spending actually did go down. It’s our way of counting the money that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t reflect a true budget cut.
    Does this scheme make sense to you? No, of course it doesn’t. But this is what pols have been telling you for years when it comes to the state and other budgets. They don’t tell the truth. Truth is that they wanted to increase spending, asked to increase spending, but settled. So if someone wanted/asked to spend 10% more on a particular line item in the budget but only got an 8% increase in spending on that line item, then they TELL US they cut spending. But, just like Obamacancer, this is a lie. And anyone who runs their own household budget KNOWS this without being told. It’s just easier to accept the criticism of people like Chris and the lies of the pols than it is to think about things and come to LOGICAL conclusions. I’m tired of being lied to. And I’m tired of every pol thinking that my back pocket is wide open to every one of their whims & schemes. It’s MY BACK POCKET and you are not allowed into it! Stay out of my life, stay out of my back pocket. When you cut spending I actually want to see the budget numbers GO DOWN! I’m tired of media types carrying the water for lying pols also. I’m tired of some group of editorial writers who tell us that things are different now, when they actually haven’t changed. I’m tired of this same group telling me that since the Republicans took over, NOW it’s time to change the way things are done. Was it acceptable when the libs did it the same way? It would appear so. This time around, are there budget cuts that result in actual spending reductions or is it still the same old lie? If there are true budget cuts, then it’s not a lie. Is the state budget out of control? Yes, perhaps not to the same extent that the federal budget is, but it’s out of control. The state is taking too much money away from producers. The state is raising too many fees on producers. The budget needs to charge those who use state services the actual cost of those services, or as close as realistic budget estimates will allow them to get. But stop charging me for every darn little thing that you want to do but I don’t get any benefit from. Stop telling me that the only way things get better is if the government gets enough power, enough control, enough authority, then and only then will ‘things’ improve. Crap on that, cuz that’s what that is!