GOP Budgeteers Face a Challenge
The enthusiasm of Republicans is infectious as they assume control of the North Carolina General Assembly.
It is, after all, the first time the GOP has attained majorities in both chambers since 1870 — the Reconstruction era. And reconstruction, though of a different sort, is again a pressing need for North Carolina.
But enthusiasm can carry only so far. The state’s financial dilemma, heightened by a revenue shortfall estimated at $3.7 billion, centers on balancing the budget — which, GOP dogma dictates, must be accomplished with sharp spending cuts but without increasing taxes. Or even keeping existing increases in place.
Time will tell whether that is at all possible without inflicting crippling cuts on critically important state programs. We have our doubts.
Some Tall Orders
To the dismay of those who cry for a clampdown on “waste and fraud,” we’ve learned that these savings, while substantial, are not sufficient to close the gap. In fact, Gov. Beverly Perdue’s proposal to revamp the state bureaucracy — announced in a groundbreaking address in Pinehurst late last year — won’t help all that much either. At least not now.
In accepting election as president pro tempore of the state Senate Wednesday, Rockingham County Republican Phil Berger promised to create jobs by balancing the budget and reducing government costs to families and businesses. He also promised to support state education and job skills training programs. Doing all that on spending cuts alone is a tall order indeed in this recessionary climate.
“Today is a new day for North Carolina with a new vision for our state’s future,” Berger told the Senate. “We will lead North Carolina on a path of smaller, smarter, more efficient government. We will reduce spending, balance our budget, and reform North Carolina’s regulatory environment to make our state a better place to live, work, raise a family, and start and grow a business.”
Needed: Wisdom, Moderation
Berger’s generally optimistic outlook is great as far as it goes. What he didn’t dwell on is the specter of thousands of lost teaching positions, of severe cutbacks in services to the mentally ill and the poor, or of maintenance delays resulting in crumbling buildings and infrastructure. The devil will come in trying to grapple with the details.
The new Republican majorities have put their enthusiasm to good use since the elections. They lost no time establishing transition teams and appointing committee leaders. Such organizational skills are doubly important inasmuch as the new legislature is made up of the largest number of freshmen in modern history. These new lawmakers need guidance as well as orientation.
Moore County enjoys a clear advantage with the GOP majorities. Sen. Harris Blake is serving his fifth term, and Rep. Jamie Boles is in his second term. They have experience to apply to their party’s newfound clout. We hope their views will be taken seriously, and not just because Moore is a Republican county. Moore County is coming into its own as a rapidly growing and influential community, and there’s no reason it can’t emerge as a leader in state governing circles.
Here’s hoping the new leadership will employ wisdom, common sense, imagination and compassion in balancing the budget without doing grave damage to state government and education.
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