06/11/09 — Still in limbo: County governments, schools just waiting for other shoe ...

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Still in limbo: County governments, schools just waiting for other shoe ...

With only a few weeks until the July 1 deadline, the North Carolina Legislature is still trying to come up with some kind of budget that will allow for the smallest number of cuts -- and the lowest tax increase numbers -- before the July deadline.

And in the process, county governments and school districts across the state -- as well as public healthcare service providers -- are sitting on pins and needles trying to figure out if they are going to have to make another round of devastating cuts.

And as they wait, so, too, do the people who work in these fields across the state.

The reality is that the state budget is probably not going to meet the official deadline.

When a proposal for a nearly $750 million tax increase hits the House floor only a few weeks before the deadline, the pace toward passage of a workable plan has just slowed to that of a tortoise with gout.

But it shouldn't -- and here's why.

The cuts that are being projected in the 2009-10 state budget are not just trimming of unnecessary expenses -- they are cutting into the bone. And the reason they are so drastic and not so targeted are that the time is swiftly passing and the state does not have time to do the laser trimming necessary to get the budget deficit down to a manageable number.

And while all state residents want to see government cut out unnecessary services and wasted expenditures and to trim back what they are spending, there comes a point when lopping off funding does not serve the long-term goals of this state.

So, this budget likely will have to include some kind of tax plan -- at least for now.

And when the final vote is in -- and the talk has turned to the next step, the legislature needs to pressure the governor and others to do a thorough audit of every dollar that is spent in this state -- and an analysis of the effectiveness of the programs under scrutiny.

If they aren't accomplishing their stated goals or there is overstaffing, they need to be ended and the money sent elsewhere -- no matter whose district they are in or whose toes are stepped on.

Who knows how many $170,000 unnecessary salaries might be hiding in those numbers.

That way, the state will have a budget it can defend and one that is solid enough to weather any future economic storm.

And most importantly, state leaders will have the confidence of their constituents that their money is being spent wisely.

Published in Editorials on June 11, 2009 11:24 AM