The North Carolina legislature will set the state budget 80 days late. The budget was due July 1st, at the start of the fiscal year, but lawmakers now say they should have the document finished by September 18th, just three days short of the start of Autumn.
The News and Observer reports that — no surprise — the stalled budget comes at a cost. Paying the salaries of legislators and aids, keeping the lights on at the General Assembly, and more, all cost more than $42,000 every single day. Over the course of this historic 80-plus day delay, NC taxpayers are coughing up an extra $2.1 million.
North Carolina is the only state without an approved budget who has a single political party in control of the House, Senate, and Governor’s office. Furthermore, this is one of the all-time latest budgets passed in 50 years. Lawmakers say it’s because they want to be fiscally careful, but if that were the case, would they be spending tens of thousands of dollars daily on what amounts to political theater?
Here’s a few ideas on how to better spend $2.1 million:
- Pay for 63 teaching assistants or 58 classroom teachers.
- Fund the state’s public school driver’s education program for one month.
- Buy 930,000 children one day of school lunch.
- Give 585 adults or 887 children Medicaid coverage for a year.
- Add a $33 bonus to every state employee’s paycheck (hey, every bit counts!).
- Grant every elementary school teacher $50 to buy classroom supplies.
- Subsidize 225,000 hours of maternity leave for North Carolina’s low-paid hourly workers.
- Clear out North Carolina’s backlog of rape kits by paying to test more than 4,000 kits sitting on shelves.
- Create 1,348 new jobs through grant funding for companies and organizations.
The Senate and House claim to have reached accord on teacher and school funding, the most contentious dividing budget issue. House budget drafters have agreed to cut $300 million from their document, and the Senate has conceded by offering teachers $750 one-time bonuses.
Beyond the financial ramifications, enormous budget delays cost state workers their sanity. School superintendents and principals don’t know how many staff they’ll be able to employ, despite the fact the traditional school year is in its second week.
Drivers ed programs are in flux pending budget announcements, and workers in other state agencies have no way to plan for the coming months in terms of supplies, staff, or other expenses.
Delaying the budget is ridiculous, especially when it comes at such a high cost. We rely on our leaders to make prudent decisions in a timely manner. Waiting two and a half months or more to set the fiscal plan for the state is completely in opposition to what voters want and need.
How would you rather see NC spend $2.1 million? Would you send to it schools, healthcare, workers, or even something frivolous? Let us know in comments, here or on Facebook.