Pete's Prep: Monday, June 7, 2018

The NC budget process stunk

I can understand the political benefit of pushing through a budget and prohibiting your opponents from proposing changes. But that doesn't make it right.

North Carolina Republican state lawmakers used a parliamentary mechanism not meant for budget adoption to prevent Democrats from running amendments. They obviously were not interested in seeing Democrats propose an array of unfunded spending measures that would not pass, but WOULD be used to frame Republicans as opposed to those measures.

For example, the Republican budget raises teacher pay another 6.5%. Democrats would've proposed a larger pay increase. Had they been allowed to do so, it would have failed. Democrats would then have run campaign attacks against the Republicans arguing that they oppose teacher pay raises.

So, Republicans decided to preempt the attack and turn the tables.

By preventing the Democrats from making proposals, the GOP will now run campaign attacks on Democrats arguing that THEY were the ones to oppose teacher pay raises.

I guess NC Republicans figured they are never going to be able to out-promise and out-spend Democrats, so they shut down the budget process in order take the narrative from the Democrats in the only other way.

But the process matters.

The president of the conservative Civitas Institute, Donald Bryson, agrees.

The coordination between the Democratic Party leadership and special interest groups for demonstrations at the General Assembly has often forced the legislative process to occur in a circus-like media spectacle. No one can or should want to try to legislate amidst vitriolic protests whose only aim is to coordinate with the minority party to score political points for November, and not help in meaningful policy debate.

Nonetheless, Republican leaders at the General Assembly have forgotten two crucial political maxims: sound policy makes good politics, and sound policy comes from good debate.

And so Democrats will run on the message Sen. Jeff Jackson (D-Mecklenburg) outlined last week.


Will it work?

Will Democrats employ the same process against the GOP when they return to power?

Who gets the credit

But the GOP budget also attempts to box in the Democratic governor.

Andrew Dunn has a good look at the jockeying for who gets the credit... and the blame... for various state issues over at Longleaf Politics.

Dunn writes toll lanes, environmental regulations and cleanup, and disaster relief are all areas where the GOP leaders attempted to restrict Gov. Cooper's ability to claim credit.

Also, jobs:

While the governor’s office negotiates economic incentive deals, the new budget bill makes it easier for companies to qualify for them. The bar for what constitutes a “transformative project” and thus eligible for a special category of rebates will be significantly lowered.

Should North Carolina land a project somewhere between $1 billion and $4 billion in the next few years, the General Assembly can point to this new provision as the reason why.

And disaster relief:

Natural disasters are a fact of life in North Carolina, and Cooper spent this past week touring flood-damaged areas in the mountains.

Sensing some weakness in the Cooper administration on the issue, the General Assembly has taken what is generally a mundane item — transferring more money to a disaster relief contingency fund — and trumpeted it as a major accomplishment in the most recent budget bill.

I would also note that Cooper and his Democratic allies used the HB2 bathroom bill to lead an economic boycott of the state. He told Democratic lawmakers to reject a proposed "fix" before the election. 

And once he successfully unseated Gov. Pat McCrory, he adopted a different compromise that was worse than the prior deal that was offered.

GOP leaders know exactly what kind of Democratic leader with whom they are dealing.

$3 billion in new debt for state road construction

The GOP leaders also proposed a massive road-building bond. But the process is raising concerns among conservatives. Sound familiar?

From the conservative John Locke Foundation's Vice President - Becki Gray:

Instead of a general obligation bond backed by the full faith and credit of the state — requiring voter approval — this proposed debt would come from transportation revenue, aka “special indebtedness,” and can go into effect without a referendum. A special indebtedness bond is considered riskier than a general obligation bond and, therefore, more expensive.

In this case, interest payments could be $80 million more for the whole debt package. In addition to the debt being non-voter approved and more expensive, it’s not clear for which projects the money would be used.

In short: it needs to go to voters for a vote.

And another thing...

"Harry's on the Hill" will be taking down their pig Chief Pontiac statue after an employee sent an "ugly, insulting, and inappropriate" comment to a customer. From WLOS.

And the Supreme Court issued a ruling the Masterpiece Cake Shop case (a/k/a: the gay wedding cake case). It's being called a "warning shot" by the Supreme Court - at best. 

A "punt" - at worst.

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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