Raleigh, N.C. — Once, major funding to expand the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences' popular dinosaur exhibit roamed the pages of North Carolina's newest state budget.
Now, that money is nearly extinct. The cause? The General Assembly's annual technical corrections bill, which made dozens of changes to the two-year budget less than two weeks after the full budget emerged from House and Senate negotiations.
Language that once laid out $1.5 million to improve the exhibit and the visible-to-the-public paleontology laboratory that goes with it, was massaged in the technical corrections bill, siphoning out about $1.23 million. Museum officials said they're not sure why. The legislature has been generous in the past with the museum, which is open free of charge in part due to state taxpayer subsidies.
"Disappointed and surprised," said Keith Poston, president of the museum's board of directors, said of the late-breaking cut.
Repeated attempts to track down the reasoning for or the author of this cut have not been successful. House Appropriations Senior Chairman Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, referred questions to House Speaker Tim Moore's office, but Moore's spokesman did not respond to messages.
The money would have been used to make the paleontology lab "bigger and more visible" to visitors and to draw people in from the street, Poston said. The project will still happen eventually, he said, and the museum will seek both public and private funds. Meanwhile, the exhibit as-is remains open.
"It may take a little bit longer," Poston said. "This is the most visited place in the state, and everybody loves dinosaurs."