Great Job, Guv - Except on Pensions
At first glance, she is a petite, attractive blonde with a pleasant voice. But it would be a big mistake to stop there when describing Gov. Beverly Perdue.
The governor made a commanding appearance at Pinehurst Resort Thursday, and the content of her address captivated rival Republicans as well as fellow Democrats. On that score at least, she proved her political savvy. She's in better shape than the president in that regard.
Faced with a $3.7 billion budget shortfall, Perdue unveiled a stringent plan to overhaul state government and save tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of taxpayer dollars. It won't solve all the state's financial problems, and it fails to address the biggest fiscal problem of all: a budget-busting state pension system. But it's a substantial start.
'Blood in the Streets'
Perdue promised no sugar-coating. Later, during a press conference, she acknowledged that there might yet be "blood in the streets."
On the surface, the plan is simple enough. Perdue wants to consolidate or eliminate agencies, privatize jobs, freeze hiring and review the existence of 150 boards and commissions. It sounds good, from the standpoint of the taxpayer, though perhaps not so good for many state employees.
Perdue was vague on details and had no estimate of savings. Nor did she project an estimate of its effect on the new budget. But her delivery was so powerful, and her strategy so practical, that it's hard to complain. She did clearly indicate that the details would be in the next budget she presents to the General Assembly.
Her proposal calls for reducing 14 top-level agencies to eight, as in merging the juvenile justice, correction and crime control and public safety departments into one Department of Public Safety.
The governor demonstrated her determination by issuing a freeze on state hiring, except for the filling of critical positions.
Pensions Threaten Bankruptcy
Perdue stood firm about education, encompassing the public schools, community colleges and the university system. She named good schools as her first priority, followed by good jobs and government efficiency.
Although her restructuring plan is creating quite a stir, the truth is that government efficiency requires a revamping every 20 or so years. It's always painful, because inevitably some people lose jobs and politicians lose pet projects.
Moore County can be proud that our plain-spoken governor chose our community to demonstrate those strengths in lucid and dynamic language.
One major point we wish Perdue hadn't skipped over: North Carolina can never expect to get its fiscal house in long-term order until it addresses the question of pensions for state employees, an extravagance that the state can no longer maintain in its present form.
A commission recently recommended that all present and future state and local government employees be given a choice between contributing to a "defined benefit" retirement plan or a "defined contribution" kind, such as 401(k)s.
But we don't think that's a drastic enough step to get the situation under control. State government can't afford to provide lavish benefits of a magnitude that private employers can no longer dream of offering.
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