The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 7th

Legislators say NC budget is more than a light read

The budget, due July 1, was passed by the N.C. Senate on Wednesday — less than a day after senators reviewed the final document.

“You can’t just read it like a novel,” said Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg.

Members of the N.C. House of Representatives will have a mandated 72 hours to evaluate the budget, which will be voted on Thursday and Friday.

Jackson said although the budget has been passed, he is still reviewing its actual contents.

“Only a very small handful of legislators know what’s in this budget,” he said. “The rest of us are still going through it, only now it’s already passed.”

He said the budget was prematurely pushed through the Senate.

“It was a major disappointment with respect to transparency,” he said. “This is the biggest legislative day of the year, and we should approach it in a thoughtful, deliberate way and not jam things through.”

Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, said representatives also don’t have enough time to thoroughly review the document, despite the 72-hour rule.

“The final agreement was negotiated behind closed doors by Republican leadership, so I didn’t see the budget until almost midnight on Monday,” he said.

Bob Luebke, a policy analyst at the conservative Civitas Institute, said serving on various committees allows legislators to have some knowledge of the budget before it is introduced.

“Of course, it’s not like somebody pops a 400-page document on your desk that nobody’s seen the guts of before,” he said. “You’re pretty much familiar with a lot of the stuff in there to begin with.”

But he said he would support the implementation of a 72-hour rule in the Senate, which Meyer and Jackson also called for.

Delays in the budget were caused by issues like education funding and philosophical divisions between Republicans in the Senate and House, Luebke said.

“The Senate is philosophically much more conservative than the House, at least on the Republican side,” he said.

He said the differences in each chamber’s constituencies caused tension in the budgeting process.

And Democrats were shut out of the negotiation process entirely, Meyer said.

“Realistically, this is a game about power,” he said. “The reality is the Republicans have the power to negotiate this budget behind closed doors and pass it with their majorities, and they don’t have to include Democrats —and they decided not to.”

But Luebke said the deliberations allowed for discussion on the topic.

“I think they made a good effort if somebody couldn’t present something in a hearing and felt strongly about it. They could always get messages across in a variety of ways.”

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