03/18/05 — Favoritism: Legislative leaders get authority over $20 million

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Favoritism: Legislative leaders get authority over $20 million

Legislative leaders are talking about raising state taxes and putting the state in the gambling business to make money because state government just doesn’t have enough to get by.

That’s poppycock.

If the members of the Legislature wanted to find enough money to operate the government for another year, they could do it without raising taxes, without extending taxes that they had promised to end, and without starting a lottery.

That has been said here many times before, based on observations that many government programs and some of the employees are not essential, and some agencies operate inefficiently.

Now comes word that the current budget, approved last year, contained hidden caches totaling $20 million to be spent by the co-speakers of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate.

The president pro tem, Democrat Marc Basnight of Dare County, got $10 million to parcel out to his favorite causes. The co-speakers, Republican Richard Moore of Moore County and Democrat Jim Black of Charlotte, got control of $5 million each.

They say nothing was wrong with this favoritism because the tax money was spent on good causes. These good causes included a clinic in Moore County, an arts center and library in Henderson and a job for one of Black’s political supporters.

Granted, clinics and libraries are worthwhile, but local ones are not the responsibility of the state. They are supposed to be built with local money.

When money is hidden in the budget for the exclusive use of a given legislator, much of it is bound to be wasted on pet projects that the majority of the Legislature would not approve in an open vote. Otherwise, why hide it?

This is a poor way to run a government, and anyone involved should be drummed out of office.

Every single penny of the taxpayers’ money should be accounted for publicly.

Published in Editorials on March 18, 2005 11:24 AM