File this one under Be Careful What You Wish For....
Yesterday, Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger surprised a group of Moral Monday protesters by pulling together some couches outside his office and sitting down to debate education policies and funding with them.
From the News & Observer:
Berger told the protesters that he valued what the protesters had to say even if he might disagree with them.
“That doesn’t mean your opinions aren’t worth listening to,” Berger said as the conversation wrapped up. “It just means sometimes we have differences and sometimes those differences can be very strongly felt. While we may not solve the problems that are out there, I’ll listen to what your proposals are.”
For the most part, all parties were respectful. The protestors whittled their list to three items they wanted addressed: they wanted tenure back; they wanted teacher assistants restored; and they wanted Berger to hold a series of public meetings on education. At the end, Berger committed to nothing more than another conversation the next day to consider further meetings.
And instead of being led out in handcuffs, the 15 protesters walked out the front of the building, nodding to Capitol Police officers, to meet their supporters.
And then today, the Senate leader's office put out the following statement:
Dear Members of the Press,
As you may know, Senate Leader Phil Berger spent over an hour having a conversation with Monday protesters who came to his legislative office tonight.
Attached is a copy of a letter Sen. Berger sent to Rev. Barber earlier this spring asking for a list of the Monday protesters’ policy recommendations. Also attached is a copy of Rev. Barber’s response.
Senate leaders analyzed Rev. Barber’s agenda and asked the General Assembly’s nonpartisan central staff to draft an amendment to the Senate budget that would accomplish the goals laid out by Rev. Barber and his followers. The agenda would cost more than $7 billion and would require raising the corporate income tax nearly ten-fold, from 6 percent to 50 percent. Sen. Berger explained Senate Republicans could not support that due to the devastating effect it would have on North Carolina jobs.
It is also worth noting that no member of either party in the Senate offered an amendment to accomplish Rev. Barber’s goals.
I'd guess that the next step in this dance is to introduce the budget amendment and see who really supports the Moral Monday policies.
I'd also guess that Democrats would not jump at the chance to raise overall state spending by 30% and increase.