First Posted: 5/26/2014
A column I wrote last week focused on the undemocratic Senate budget process with Senate leaders writing the spending plan in secret backroom meetings with the intention of unveiling the budget bill this week in appropriations subcommittees.
Now it looks like the subcommittees won’t even have a look at it. The News & Observer reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown says it’s likely that the budget will bypass the subcommittees and instead go directly to the full Appropriations Committee for consideration.
That means even less public scrutiny, virtually no chance for outside testimony from experts and advocates, and far less input from most senators themselves.
Brown cited the tight schedule as a reason for the unusual speedy budget process. Tight schedule? He and his colleagues set the schedule.
Maybe it is that a certain legislative leader running for the U.S. Senate wants the session to end early so he can return to the campaign trail full-time.
In that case, why worry about committee meetings at all? Just bring it to the Senate floor today and pass it. No need for amendments or debate.
It is apparently more important to pass the budget as quickly as possible than to worry about that pesky democratic process. No reason for all senators to have any input. And certainly no need to hear from the people on how $21 billion of their money should be spent.
The “Carolina Comeback”
Here are a few things to remember about the “Carolina Comeback” that Gov. Pat McCrory keeps touting every month when the state unemployment rate is announced — the rate is now down to 6.2 percent, which is lower than the national average.
That doesn’t mean that McCrory’s tax breaks for the wealthy and budget cuts to education have created a massive economic recovery in North Carolina.
It is true that the state, like the rest of the nation, has seen some expected job growth since the depths of the Great Recession.
But as the folks from the N.C. Budget & Tax Center keep pointing out, a broader look at the employment data from state and federal sources paints a far less rosy picture because so many people have dropped out of the work force and are no longer counted when the unemployment rate is calculated.
The latest data from state and federal sources shows there are roughly 240,000 missing workers in North Carolina who have given up their search for a job because they can’t find one.
If you count those missing workers, the unemployment rate is 11.4 percent.
That’s no comeback.
Cutting off unemployment does not force people back to work
The other argument that McCrory and his supporters continue to make is that the decision last year to slash unemployment benefits for laid off workers and deny them extended federal emergency benefits forced workers into jobs and off the unemployment rolls.
It is simply not true. The latest evidence comes in a story from Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog that reported that just 24 percent of laid-off workers nationwide had found work three months after their emergency benefits were cut off.
That’s roughly the same percentage of workers who were finding a job before the benefits ended.
Cutting off unemployment benefits did not force people to find a job. There are still not enough jobs for them to find.
All it did across the nation and in North Carolina was create more suffering for thousands of families.
Ten jobs created
And speaking of economic development, the press release machine is whirring faster than ever in Gov. Pat McCrory’s office, this week issuing a release touting an announcement by a fabric manufacturer in Iredell County that it was expanding and creating 29 new jobs over three years.
There must be some level of a job announcement too small for a release from McCrory’s office but apparently 10 jobs a year is not it.
New jobs in the state are welcome of course but it does make you wonder, as you have read here before, when we will start seeing press releases and ribbon-cuttings for every Subway or Kangaroo Express that opens in North Carolina.
Don’t bet against it.
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.