The Follies

The Follies

- in Fitzsimon File

Grand budget unveiling scheduled

Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight says he expects the Senate to pass its budget proposal next weekend. The plan is to unveil the plan in pieces in subcommittee meetings Monday, the full budget committee Tuesday and vote on the Senate floor Wednesday and Thursday.

That would be the Senate budget that most Senators have never seen and know next to nothing about, the one put together in a corner room in the Legislative Office Building by a handful of Senators who occasionally summon others to appear before them.

The Senate has held a few public budget meetings to hear from agency officials and held a few more a couple of weeks ago to briefly discuss the governor's budget, but that's it.

There have been NO public budget meetings to actually debate the best way to address the $4 billion shortfall and just as troubling, the closed budget process doesn't seem to bother many people at the Legislative Building, including most reporters.

It has become part of the accepted legislative culture that Senate leaders meet in secret for a few weeks, and then hand the budget down from the mountain and expect all the Democrats to vote for it.

The budget committees that are supposed to meet Monday to receive pieces of the budget decree are not even listed on Monday's Senate calendar. Citizens wondering how the Senate wants to spend $21 billion of public money have no idea that the committees are even meeting.

Senate leaders have been sensitive in the past to criticism of the closed budget process and held a few public meetings to give the impression of openness. Budget leaders claimed that some of the gatherings in the corner room were open if reporters came by.

That's was hardly an open budget process, but this session things are worse. Senate budget writers aren't even pretending. Part of the budget will be handed down from on high Monday. Most Senators will get full plan in a committee meeting Tuesday and then be expected to have read it, understood it, and prepared any amendments they want made to it by Wednesday.

If recent sessions are any indication, they better try to make changes early in the floor session as the Democratic leadership usually cuts off debate quickly on a budget that most Senators still don't understand. Let's hear it for democracy.

Another missing press release

The folks over at the Pope Civitas Institute always put out a few press releases about their monthly polls before they release all results of the survey.

This month's advance press releases included results showing that people don't know the leaders of the General Assembly, slightly prefer Roy Cooper over Senator Richard Burr in the 2010 U.S. Senate race, and have varied opinions about state budget priorities.

But there were other findings that weren't singled out for special mention by the folks at Civitas, like the responses to this question.

"Given North Carolina's $2 billion budget deficit, do you support or oppose Governor Perdue's proposal to increase per student education spending?

Fifty-four percent of people did support spending more on education and 30 percent opposed it.  

Civitas tell us often that schools don't need more money, but apparently the state's voters don't buy it. Civitas must have forgotten to issue that press release.

Report from the fringe

It is the usual names vying for a mention in this week's report from the fringe. Perennial favorite George Leef with the Pope Center to Dismantle Public Higher Education suggests that President Barack Obama doesn't know or care about economic policy  and simply wants to spend government revenue to buy votes.

Not only does Leef disagree with Obama, he questions his integrity, claiming that Obama isn't at all concerned about the country's economic problems, Sounds like the Rush Limbaugh show was playing louder than usual this week in Popeville.

The always hysterical Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC) weighs in with a survey wondering if it is time to impeach Obama for actually having a reasonable thought or two about immigration policy.

It's easy to write off ALIPAC and their extremist ranting, but the media doesn't, often quoting the group's director Bill Gheen in stories about undocumented workers. Gheen unfortunately is also a frequent guest on radio and television talk shows.

And finally, Jeff Taylor of the Locke Foundation earns yet another mention in the fringe report with his attack this week on Sen. Lindsey Graham for suggesting that health care benefits be subject to taxation.

The title of Taylor's post is "Lindsey Graham is crazy and must be stopped," and it goes downhill form there.

Taylor begins his diatribe with this classy statement. "I swear this peckerwood is getting on my last nerve," and ends it with "Why does South Carolina keep electing this dipstick? He a sophist and a charlatan without any redeeming qualities."

It marks the latest entry in Taylor's impressive record of offensiveness as a paid staff member of a group that claims to be a credible voice in the state policy debate.  He recently complained about the Charlotte Observer's editorial about immigration in a post with the headline "McClatchy whoring itself out for Latino money." 

Earlier this year Taylor responded to the news that Robert Guy was leaving his job as head of the state's probation system with this.  "Go to hell Robert Guy. You know you deserve it, and so does your wife. Die you worthless bastard."

They sure must be proud over there in Lockeville.

About the author

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.
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