Legislators fail to pass budget – again

For the seventh time in 10 years, the General Assembly will be derelict in its duty to fulfill a major constitutional responsibility. The new fiscal year will begin without the legislature passing a state budget.

It’s no wonder North Carolinians have such a low opinion of government. Even though both houses and the governorship are controlled by the same party, they cannot complete this most basic government function. Although in session for six months, they’ve waited until the last minute to consider this important issue.

Not only were the competing budgets drafted in secret by a small, closed group of legislators, lobbyists and special interests group agents, these same people are now meeting behind closed doors to cut deals for a final budget. There’s nothing fair, impartial, or reasonable, and certainly not democratic, about this process.

Perhaps if legislators actually read the state constitution they’ve taken an oath to uphold this problem wouldn’t come up every year. Under that charter, the governor is responsible for drafting the budget. The state House and Senate can review it and make changes, and must approve it. But the fundamental responsibility rests with the governor.

There’s no need at all for both houses to separately, and secretly, draft their own budgets – other than to score political points and provide cover for political favors.

NC can save $383 million in its budget

The state can save up to $383 million in its budget if it uses a spending technique proposed by the John Locke Foundation in their latest Spotlight report. The technique is called “reverse logrolling.”

“Lawmakers can achieve these additional savings by using a technique called ‘reverse logrolling,'”  “It flips traditional budget logrolling on its head,” said Sarah Curry, JLF Director of Fiscal Policy Studies, the report author. Logrolling is a budget practice in which negotiators for both legislative chambers agree to accept higher spending levels for each chamber’s budget priorities.

“This practice often results in a poor outcome for average citizens, as lower-priority or so-called ‘pork-barrel’ items are funded and mediocre legislation enacted,” Curry said.

Budget negotiators should take the opposite approach, Curry said in a press release. “Rather than one set of budget negotiators accepting particular programs or higher levels of spending from their counterparts, with the expectation that those counterparts will do the same, legislators should agree to accept the lower spending numbers for each departmental budget,” she said. “After all, a majority in at least one chamber already has decided that the lower spending figure will satisfy citizens’ needs under current budgetary constraints.”

She outlines how these savings can be achieved in the report, included a spreadsheet of potential department-by-department savings.

This is a commendable effort, which Libertarians support. The greatest obstacle we see is to get Republican and Democratic legislators to kick their spending habit.

JLF Press Release

JLF Spotlight Report

Republicans ignore state constitution and the law

It took me two tries, but I finally got Rep. Nelson Dollar, through his legislative assistance, to admit that the General Assembly has not complied with the law requiring them to pass a budget by June 30. Or at least I think I have.

In my first e-mail to Mr. Dollar I asked: The General Assembly has not yet passed the state budget. Am I correct in believing that state law requires you to pass a budget by June 30? Or is that a self-imposed deadline? Has the GA failed to pass a budget by June 30 before?

The answer from Candace Slate, Legislative Assistant was:

“Thank you for your e-mail. A Continuing Resolution was passed HB336 allowing for the budget passage to July 31, 2013. This type of Resolution has occurred many times over the years. This Resolution allows for the State Budget Director to continue the expenditures for the operation of government until the new budget is passed.

To which I replied: Thanks for your prompt reply. I know that is what the General Assembly has done. But my question is, is there a state statute or GA policy that requires the budget to be passed by June 30, since the state’s fiscal year starts July 1. Funding state government operation with a continuing resolution, no matter how temporary, does not seem to me to be the most efficient way to run things.

And the final answer was: “This is required under the State Budget Act and was sent to me by our Fiscal Research staff: § 143C-5-4. Enactment deadline. The General Assembly shall enact the Current Operations Appropriations Act by June 15 of odd-numbered years and by June 30 of even-numbered years in which a Current Operations Appropriations Act is enacted. (2006-203, s. 3.)

So, I think he’s admitting that the GA did not comply with the statute. Unless they consider a continuing resolution a “current operations appropriations act.”

However, I must give Representative Dollar credit for promptly responding to my constituent queries. As this took less than three hours, and he’s responded to previous queries just as promptly.

Politicians distort the plain meaning of words

So N.C. Republicans have finally agreed on which Ponzi scheme they’re going to use to con North Carolinians into thinking they’re cutting taxes.

Yippie.

Democrats, predictably, are screaming about how this plan will hurt “the poor” and reward “the rich.” Even some conservatives, to their credit, see the sham.

But everyone is taking about the issue in Newspeak.

Republican and Democrat politicians don’t speak the same language as everyday folk. Listen to how they talk about tax “cuts.” They maintain government “loses” money through “loopholes” and tax exemptions. The implication is clear. You don’t own the money you earn. How else could government lose something it doesn’t own?

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Congress derelict in its duty

There’s no clearer example of how Congressional dereliction of than its failure to pass a federal budget in more than three years. The recently brokered deal between the Democratic Senate majority leader and the House Republican Speaker to fund government with a continuing resolution until Oct. 1, conveniently bypassing the November election, is a depressing attempt to cover-up their negligence.

This is not gridlock. It is not hyper-partisanship. It is blatant irresponsibility. Approving the budget is one of the most fundamental duties of Congress.

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Don’t raise debt ceiling, stop the spending

BURNET, Texas (June 26) – There are several times in my life, more than I care to remember, that I have gone into debt. Who hasn’t? Sometimes I just made bad decisions. But every time I went into debt I alone was responsible for getting myself out of the hole. If you find yourself in a hole that is already too deep and you want to get out, the first thing any sane person does is stop digging. If you’re deep in debt, the first thing to do is — stop spending. That’s what responsible people do.

Apparently however, when someone is elected to office they forget or disregard this simple fact of life. They don’t remember what it’s like to live within their means and to balance a budget. They forget that the simplest, surest and only real way to get out of debt is to stop spending. The spectacle of the Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington D.C. purportedly struggling over the seemingly monumental issue of raising the debt ceiling illustrates just how far out of touch the president and Congressional leaders are with the basic economic realities faced by average Americans every day.

Even the name they use to identify the issue, “debt ceiling,” is an example of the way politicians manipulate words to mask reality. The debt ceiling is merely an artificial cap set by Congress on the amount of money the federal government can legally borrow. It was first set in 1917, but has been raised more than 100 times since then, proving that it’s really not a ceiling at all, not even a glass ceiling, but actually as “high as the sky.”

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Saving Century post office won’t be savings for taxpayers

Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman explained the principle of government spending this way. “When a man spends his own money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about how much he spends and how he spends it,” he said. He’s still careful about what he spends when he buys something for someone else, but “somewhat less what he spends it on.”

When a man uses someone’s else money to buy something for himself, he’s careful about what he buys but not so careful on how much he spends. “And when a man spends someone else’s money on someone else, he doesn’t care how much he spends or what he spends it on. And that’s government for you,” Friedman concluded.

That axiom applies to any government at any level, and to all amounts of money. The problem is that the more money is involved, the more difficult it is to recognize the problem. It is somewhat easier to see this principle at work on the local level, as two recent news items illustrate.

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Republicans sucker-punch Americans with fake budge cuts again

Americans hoping that the new Republican majority in Congress would offer real budget cuts just got sucker-punched by the Republicans, the Libertarian Party chair said yesterday.

“Americans hoping to get real about our national debt just got sucker-punched by Republican Paul Ryan,” said Mark Hinkle in a statement. “Republicans want to spend $40 trillion over ten years. That averages a staggering $4 trillion per year.”

As recently as 2000, federal spending was only about $1.8 trillion. Republicans also want to increase the federal debt from $15.0 trillion to $23.1 trillion.

“I hope our children and grandchildren enjoy paying interest on that extra $8.1 trillion.”

Barbara Howe, state Libertarian Party chair, said she was not surprised.

“When I read Mark’s (Hinkle) comment about being sucker-punched, my first thought was, ‘Yeah, again.’ Why are we surprised that the Republicans are so weak with budget cuts. After all, GOP stands for Good on Promises, Gutless on Performance,” Howe quipped.

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