Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Things we like about Gov. McCrory's budget

Gov. Pat McCrory's first budget, a $20.6 billion effort, will get lots of scrutiny over the next few days. It still comes up short on meeting some grave needs in the state. It will reportedly mean state agencies on average will see their budgets cut 1 percent to 3 percent from the current year’s $20.2 billion spending plan, leading to some jobs cuts and the elimination of longtime state interests.

But McCrory deserves credit for including a few things that Republican leaders unwisely rejected or cut during the last two legislative sessions: The governor's budget re-establishes funding for drug treatment courts, a proven aid to tackling addiction and the crime and violence that often accompanies it. The $7.2 million arguably isn't enough but it's a step in the right direction.

Also, a step in the right direction is funding for pre-kindergarten programs. Lawmakers took a break from commonsense two years ago when they slashed the program by 20 percent and tried to institute a co-pay for struggling poor families qualifying for the program. The courts intervened and some of that money was restored through an executive order from then-Gov. Bev Perdue last year. We hope the 5,000 new slots funded in McCrory's budget are in addition to the 6,300 slots Perdue found money for from other programs in 2012.

Kudos also go to McCrory for providing $10 million to compensate victims of the state’s former eugenics program, an embarrassing episode in the state's history that state lawmakers should have rectified years ago. They had a chance to do so last year when House members including GOP House Speaker Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg approved the move. But Senate leader Phil Berger balked and the issue got nowhere. We hope wiser and more compassionate heads prevail this time. There are nearly 150 verified living victims of the state's sterilization program, the longest running in the nation. But victims are getting older each day. It would be an additional shame for the state to stall on making this restitution until all the victims died. The $50,000 each would get is small compensation for having to endure what the state put them through.

Here's something else of interest in McCrory's budget. He included money to provide Saturday service at 30 Division of Motor Vehicles offices to improve service. If you recall, McCrory made a point in his State of the State address of decrying DMV service problems  after, he said, he "and 60 or more people took time off their jobs to wait in line for over an hour and a half to get their driver's license renewed."

Well, if it takes a personal offense to get a problem addressed in the state budget, so be it.


Bobby Padgett said...

No where in Gov. pART mcPOPE's budget is there any mention of restoring funding for the Governor's School program for gifted and talented students. That is a huge negative.