Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Conservative’s Viewpoint ,
North Carolina’s New Budget;
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Article by Bob Steinburg - August 3rd, 2007
Edenton, North Carolina: Cradle of the Colony

The North Carolina General Assembly have concluded their session for 2007, and with it passed a new 20 billion dollar state budget. This lengthy 111 day legislative marathon will perhaps best be remembered for what it didn’t accomplish, than what it did.

The Good:

The Medicaid Relief bill passed, which will now have the state picking up the counties current five percent share of Medicaid bills. This gives our rural counties, in particular, welcomed help, as they continue to struggle under the tremendous budgeting burden of that ever expanding entitlement program.

In addition the new budget will give North Carolina’s 93,215 state employees’s an increase in salary. Most will receive a 4 percent raise, with judges, community college instructors and teacher’s wages being bumped up by 5 percent. Those who have retired from state service will see a 2.2 percent cost of living increase added to their monthly pension checks.

A cap was put on the gas tax, certainly welcome relief for all of us. North Carolina however, still maintains the dubious distinction of having one of the largest taxes on gasoline in the country.

Another piece of legislation was enacted that will prohibit officials who have been convicted of a felony, like former Democrat Speaker Jim Black, from collecting their state pensions.

There were other positive legislative accomplishments to be sure, but these are certainly the most notable in this recent lackluster legislative session.

The Bad:

Spend, spend, and spend! Even with a 1.5 billion dollar surplus remaining in our state treasury, the House, Senate and ultimately the Governor, by his signature of approval, found new ways to increase the tax burden on the citizens they are charged with representing.

Democrats currently control all of the legs of this three legged stool and must assume the bulk of the responsibility for the 9.5 percent increase in spending in our new state budget.

This in spite of an inflation rate in the U.S this year of 2.175 percent through June. Last years budget spending increased almost 10 percent while the inflation rate was only 3.5 percent. Clearly North Carolina cannot maintain this spending spree without driving the bulk of its citizens straight to the poor house in their horse and buggies.

Nothing was done to strengthen laws protecting children against sexual predators as Jessica’s Law, which passed the state house unanimously, only to end up sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee, never came to a vote on the senate floor. Thirty one states have passed this legislation, with Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi and Utah on the threshold of approval. Why has our state senate not voted on this?

Illegal immigration, a very important issue to this country and state; no legislation enacted! North Carolina is one of seven states to have significant illegal immigrants; in excess of 300,000, with more on the way. Georgia recently enacted stiff immigration laws that are forcing their illegal immigrants to vacate Georgia and head north. Where do you think they are heading? You guessed it. North Carolina, a state with some of the weakest immigration laws in the country. Is it any wonder the numbers of illegal immigrants living within our state’s borders continues to swell?

Property rights: Nothing enacted to protect private property from being condemned for economic development.

Education: North Carolina continues to throw mega bucks at our public schools and the results? After 20 years and too much money to count, we have done little to improve the 32 percent drop-out rate by students in our state. Money is clearly not the only answer to this problem. Republicans and some Democrats have presented the legislature with many options, including Charter Schools and other alternative remedies, in an effort to turn the tide on this alarming and continuing trend of mediocrity at best, and failure at worst. Unfortunately those controlling the purse strings in Raleigh, still naively believe that spending more money is the solution. Well folks, we’ve had 20 years of this single minded approach to repairing our public schools and it just hasn’t worked. Why should reasonable thinking taxpayers believe this year’s budget and the same old failed formula of more money will be any different? Clearly, it is well past time for a change in strategy.

Transportation: Our roadways and bridges continue to deteriorate, but there is no sense of urgency in Raleigh to do anything about it. Instead 172 million dollars was transferred from the highway trust fund into the general revenue fund to be used for, who knows what? We can only hope that the horrific and fatal bridge collapse in Minneapolis will stir the legislature to action, before it is too late!

North Carolina is one of the fastest growing states in the country. To accommodate this growth we must secure and expand our infrastructure to meet the growing demands that are and will continue to be placed upon our infrastructure this 21st century.

The Ugly:

This is one area where there is a clear and perfect fit. In spite of one of the biggest scandals in state legislative history, and a looming sense there is more to come, the legislature has done nothing to resolve the ethical issues that swirl around it, like "the perfect storm". Its business as usual in Raleigh, with the continued soliciting of lobbyists for campaign contributions, pet non-profits, and appropriations to non-profits controlled by legislators. In fact, one of the most important things this legislature should have acted upon was to impose term limits on all positions of legislative leadership, which in and of itself, would have gone a long way in showing the folks back home, our representatives are serious about cleaning up their mess in Raleigh.

There will be time in the first session next year to implement self imposed rules to help keep everyone honest and to tackle legislative opportunities missed in this most recent session. We have a role to play in all of this as well. We must continue to oversee and monitor as well as remind our state representatives that we demand, not just expect, open, honest and transparent representation in Raleigh and nothing less.

In the end it really is up to us, "we the people". If we don’t do our part, than perhaps P.T Barnum was right. "There’s a sucker born every minute, and they often get what they deserve!"

Special attention needs to be brought to three of the issues here.

First, education. After two generations of increasing independence for the teacher's unions (some would even say arrogance) our children fall further and further behind. A special problem exists in areas with large black populations due to the socialism of the black representatives in our governments at all levels. This has worsened the culture of victim-hood and the excuses. The percentage of black male children who drop out is nearly half here in North Carolina. What chance is there to reach the American dream when the first step on the ladder to success is taken away before our black sons even get started? The only solution for these socialism oriented legislators is to throw money at the problem. It has not worked in over 40 years. Our children continue to fall further and further behind. And the democrats become more and more beholden to the union bosses of the teacher's unions. When is this cycle going to be broken?

Second, illegal immigration. America is at war with Islamofascists and with Mexico. Both wars are frightening because of the implications for massive cultural change in our state and nation. We are a Christian nation and continued blackmail by liberals to provide special programs to promote Islam is part of the socialist war on America. Like the special San Diego program demanding that all children at their schools, including Christians, must participate in a 15 minute prayer session for Muslims. This is considered cultural. While at the same time Christians are forbidden from praying unless they do it on their own time, AND SILENTLY, so they don't offend the Muslims. North Carolina is a huge magnet for illegal immigrants, but the socialists of the Democrat Party stop any meaningful reform, just as they did with aggressive intervention in this year's legislative session. How can our courts tolerate such arrogant indifference to equal protection?

Third, transportation. For nearly two generations there has been a war by socialists of the Democrat Party against the automobile. Unlike public transportation that essentially enslaves the population to the power of the public officials who control it, the freedom granted by the automobile is resented by the socialists. They have long had a campaign to take all taxes on transportation and stop using it to benefit those who are taxed. Instead they take the tax dollars and put them in the general fund so they can be used to fund health care for illegals, free rent for the poor, and increased salaries for government bureaucrats. No roads are to be built. Cars are treated as luxuries and suppressed. The bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis is just one example of the potential consequences as our road infrastructure falls apart. Democrats in North Carolina once again this year raided the road trust fund to pay off special interests and not to build roads. How can the middle class in North Carolina tolerate such a damaging raid on their road trust fund?

It must be remembered that the total Democrat control of North Carolina is an insult to the concept of democracy. It was not voted in by the people. The people have voted for Republicans by an overwhelming majority in recent elections. However those votes do not translate into Republicans in office because of the bribery of Jim Black and the gerrymandered districts it allowed.

This huge budget, wasting tax dollars and paying off special interests, is the result of corruption on a scale never seen, not even in the days of Hughie Long. North Carolina's Democrat Party is the most corrupt political power in the history of our nation. No one else ever bought an entire state against the people's desires.

Hughie Long at least won the vote fairly.


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