Local Politics

Budget cut visible to N.C. travelers

Posted July 3, 2009
Updated July 6, 2009

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— In light of the economy, the state of North Carolina is cutting back across the board. With a projected $4.6 billion deficit in the state budget, every program is coming under scrutiny and cost-cutting is rampant.

Residents will feel the effects of those cuts in their classrooms and their wallets, in services the state provides and as they travel the state's highways.

Highway flowers subject to budget cuts Highway flowers subject to budget cuts

The state Department of Transportation found one way to save $1 million that may mean fewer vibrant views for vacationers. It has suspended the roadside wildflower program. Flowers planted over 1,500 to 2,000 acres have beautified the trip through the state since 1985.

More than 50 percent of the funds for the program comes from the sale of vanity license plates, with the rest coming from federal highway programs. DOT officials said the state money continues to accrue in a bank account, and they said they hope to use some for a fall planting.

Pam Cockroft, a visitor from Michigan, already noticed the difference.

"I always notice them when I drive down. In fact I made that statement to my husband. '(I) wonder where the flowers are, 'cause they're not here," she said.

Aaron Earls of Wake Forest said he can see the logic.

"I would say that would be a good bit of too much money for the government to be spending on flowers," he said.

In Raleigh, Dawn Currin agreed. "Some of the stuff has been taken out. I've noticed that. It just doesn't look as nice but I would agree a million dollars is a little much."

In another cost-cutting move, the state plans to reduce the inmate litter program. Soon, the floral view may be replaced by a much trashier one.

Kris Bailey thinks the flowers and litter pick-up represent money well spent. "We've got to have those tourism dollars and as people come in and see trash and don't see flowers, they don't come back," he said.

Cockroft is one visitor to whom it makes a big difference. "That's a big part of coming into North Carolina, seeing all those beautiful flowers," she said.

North Carolina is operating on a stopgap spending plan after lawmakers failed to pass a new budget before the end of the 2008-09 fiscal year on June 30. The provision keeps the lights on, but allows state departments and services to spend no more than 85 percent of what was allocated in the past fiscal year's budget.

DOT officials hope the new budget will provide for some planting.

12 Comments

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  • NC is my home Jul 6, 2009

    The flowers are nice, but State employees keeping their jobs is nicer! I doubt very seriously if any tourist will not visit because we don't have the flowers right now. We do need to cut more from some programs and wait on non-essential projects. It wouldn’t hurt to lower the salaries of the General Assembly. We’ll get back to these extra things when the economy gets better. This is North Carolina—where the weak grow strong & the strong grow great!

  • commonsensical Jul 3, 2009

    jpquick: it IS the shellfish.. the shellfish politicians.

  • turtledove Jul 3, 2009

    Who cares about wildflowers. Now if they would only not spend the 25 million for that pier down on the coast. Cut the waste and save our taxes!

  • jpquick Jul 3, 2009

    It seems Bev Perdue would like North Carolina residents to live with 3rd world standards for public sanitation, even though the state expects to receive $1.5 billion in new "revenue" to maintain "critical" services.

    I would like to suggest that the most basic responsibility of the state government is to insure a healthy and safe living environment for the majority of North Carolina residents.

    It is easy to see that the legislature is owned by special interests when public health is given lower priority than pork-barrel projects designed to benefit a small percentage of the population.

    House Democrats and Bev Perdue will spend $7.4 million on shellfish sanctuaries over the next 2 years, but not one penny on maintaining basic standards for roadside sanitation.

    Something smells in Raleigh, and it isn't the shellfish....

  • TheBullCity Jul 3, 2009

    They have to pay the inmates. Something like $2/day. Most of that money ends up going into corrections pockets for room & board or paying restitution.

  • Smokin Jul 3, 2009

    But that's not the true saving when you stop the flowers....you now have to mow. Why not plant perennials and be done with it?

  • working for deadbeats Jul 3, 2009

    I'll make sure to pick up the political signs next time....at least the democratic ones.

  • Gillie Jul 3, 2009

    We can always look forward to the useless political signs lining the highways from time to time. Wait, here’s an idea: maybe the money they spend on signs could be used for the flowers.

  • working for deadbeats Jul 3, 2009

    Good question! The guards are already paid for. Maybe the gas for the vans???? You can bet somebody is getting a huge kick back from it.

  • rrzx-14 Jul 3, 2009

    Why does it cost to have inmates picking up trash?

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