The Follies

The Follies

- in Fitzsimon File

Ignoring unemployed workers the new official GOP sport?

It has been two weeks now since the unemployment benefits of 37,000 workers ran out and Republican legislative leaders don’t seem too worried about it.

Democrats in the General Assembly have tried everything they could think of to force the House and Senate to pass legislation to extend the benefits that would be paid for with federal money.

They held a hearing where workers told their emotional stories, they filed a discharge petition to get the bill to extend the benefits out of a committee, and they held news conferences to draw more attention to the workers plight.

But Republican leaders would have none of it. First they said that lawmakers were too busy this week, which might have been the most disingenuous claim they’ve made this session, and that’s saying something.

There was plenty of time for a couple of quick committee meetings and floor votes. If they had time to talk about Sharia law and the official state sport, they had time to help families who can’t pay their rent.

The other excuse by the Republicans was that they have already addressed the issue with legislation that combined the benefit extension with a continuing budget resolution that would slash 13 percent from Governor Perdue’s budget proposals if the General Assembly and the governor couldn’t agree on a budget before the end of the state’s fiscal year.

Perdue vetoed that bill like the Republicans knew she would and the workers benefits ran out.

That’s where things stand today, with legislative leaders willing to let 37,000 workers suffer while they stubbornly defend their cheap political stunt.

Stam’s fuzzy math

House Majority Leader Paul Stam continues to distort reality in his efforts to defend the disastrous budget proposal approved by the Appropriations Committee this week. Stam says that “everyday families” are the biggest winners in the budget because the one-cent temporary sales tax increase is allowed to expire.

As WRAL-TV’s Laura Leslie pointed out, the sales tax cut comes to about $80 a year for the median family, yet Stam says families will come out to the better by “10 times more.”

That’s absurd of course. Families who now have to pay $75 for their son or daughter to take drivers ed in school won’t be any better off. Neither will kids in the second and third grades who no longer have a teacher assistant in class to help them read.

Neither will families who live near a creek or stream that’s contaminated because there won’t be any environmental officials to make sure it is cleaned up.

People paying more to attend community college won’t be better off and neither will UNC students who can’t graduate on time because so many classes have been cancelled.

People with a mental illness who can no longer access the community services they need certainly won’t come out to the better by 10 times more. Neither will at-risk kids who can’t enroll in more at four.

The list goes on and on. Families don’t win in the House budget, they lose. All of us lose.

The only mystery about the House budget is why isn’t there more anger and outrage about it.

The question of the week

The question of the week comes from the headline of a Charlotte Observer editorial that asks, “Are Republicans wary of large voter turnout?”

The Observer points out the numerous efforts by Republicans to make it more difficult for people to cast a ballot, the most egregious of which is the legislation to require voters to show a government photo ID at the polls.

Republicans also want to shorten the early voting period and no longer let people register and vote at early voting sites. It’s hard not to think they would reinstate the poll tax and the property requirement if they could get away with it.

Judging by the legislation introduced this year, the answer to the question appears to be yes, Republicans are afraid too many people will vote. They know what that will mean for their political future.

About the author

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.
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