The Follies

The Follies

- in Fitzsimon File

The pathetic stunt to punish workers

This might be Friday and these are the Follies, but there’s nothing even remotely amusing about the Republicans’ offensive attempt to hold unemployed workers hostage as part of their right-wing budget slashing games.

The unemployment benefits of 37,000 unemployed workers run out on Saturday unless the General Assembly approves legislation to allow them to keep receiving the extended benefits that are completely funded by the federal government.

But legislative leaders combined the benefit extension with a continuing budget resolution that would force Governor Beverly Perdue to run state government on 13 percent less funding than she has recommended if there is no final budget agreement before the end of the state fiscal year June 30.

Budget negotiations haven’t even begun in earnest. The House just released its budget recommendations this week but hasn’t debated them, much less passed anything. The Senate hasn’t even put its plan together yet and there are still ten weeks left in the fiscal year.

There’s no way Perdue should agree now to a budget level set by Republicans that would force massive cuts in education and human services.

Republicans say that Perdue’s threat to veto their budget gives them no choice, but veto threats are part of the negotiations. That’s the way the system works. The same Republicans crying foul and saying that Perdue talking about a veto means she is unwilling to negotiate in good faith vow every day never to raise taxes or keep the 2009 temporary taxes in place.

It is apparently ok for them to rule out any compromise, but it is somehow offensive when Perdue does it. It’s like they have forgotten that she was elected by the people too.

But more importantly, all the budget back and forth has nothing to do with the 37,000 workers about to lose their benefits. Republicans claim to care about the workers, but you wouldn’t know it from the stunt they are trying to pull.

They know full well that Perdue will veto the bill, which means they are willing to let the workers lose their benefits Saturday instead of simply passing a benefit extension that Perdue will sign.

They would rather play pathetic, Washington-style partisan political games than help families who are worried about how to pay their rent next month.

The episode is a new low for the General Assembly and given the performance of lawmakers so far this year, that is no small accomplishment.

Perdue stands up for students, agrees with last year’s Stevens

Perdue also made headlines this week for her veto of state health plan legislation that would for the first time charge teachers and state employees a monthly premium. Perdue understandably considered the proposal a tax on teachers, who haven’t received a raise in three years and whose jobs have become far more difficult as budget cuts have eliminated much of the support they received from their schools and local school systems.

Far less attention was paid to Perdue’s other veto of the week, her rejection of legislation that would allow local community colleges to deny students access to low interest federal loans.

On this issue Perdue agrees with Republican Senator Richard Stevens, at least the one from last session who led a study commission that came up with legislation that he then sponsored to require the community colleges to make the loans available to their students.

This year’s Senator Stevens voted to repeal the law that last year’s Senator Stevens sponsored.

The good news is that Perdue’s veto means that last year’s Senator Stevens will prevail and more importantly that thousands of community college students will have access to low interest loans.

Every single one, except two

Speaking of Senator Stevens, fellow Republican Senator Jerry Tillman seems to have selective amnesia about him.

During the debate about the continuing budget resolution, Tillman launched into the now familiar tirade about how Democrats caused the current budget problems with the reckless spending plan they passed last year.

Tillman said that not a single Republican now in the Senate voted for the budget last year. But that’s simply not true.

Two Republicans did, Senator Stan Bingham and Senator Stevens. And Republican Senate leaders thought enough of Stevens to make him head of the powerful Appropriations Committee this session.

The next time Tillman needs an explanation of why last year’s budget made sense, he ought to stop screeching at the Democrats in the Senate and ask his own budget chair who supported it.

To the right of Fox News

April 15th always brings out the hard right anti-government crowd and this year is no exception, with Tea Party events scheduled across the state.

And the conservative think tanks that want to be taken seriously in the state policy world continue to pander to them.

One of the tax day protests is being held in Waynesville by something called the Haywood 9-12 project. One of the featured speakers is Kory Swanson from the Locke Foundation.

If you are wondering about the group here’s a clue. The second item on its suggested reading list is “Common Sense” by Glen Beck.

Too extreme for Fox news but not for the Locke Foundation.