@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Senate Dems warn of 'closed-door' budget

Posted March 22, 2011 2:27 p.m. EDT

Pot, meet kettle.

Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt and Senator Linda Garrou, D-Forsyth, used their weekly presser today to complain that Senate Republicans may be putting together a budget behind closed doors, leaving the public out of the debate on big policy matters.

Now, no one’s arguing that two wrongs make a right. But it’s fair to point out that when the Democrats ran the Senate, they often engaged in precisely the same practice.

In fact, just last year, a provision mysteriously materialized in the Senate budget that would have stripped State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin of his ability to regulate insurance rates.

Nesbitt, who was majority leader then, had the provision removed after Goodwin called attention to it, but we had to go all the way to the top – to then-Pro Tem Marc Basnight – to find out where it came from. Here’s the story I did on it at Isaac Hunter's Tavern. 

At the time, then-Minority Leader Phil Berger complained that Democrats had been constructing budgets behind closed doors for years.

“They materialize full-blown on somebody’s desk one morning…It’s as if it was transported here from an episode of Star Trek, and nobody wants to claim responsibility for all or part of it,” Berger said.

Nesbitt says there’s a difference of degree between what the Democrats did, which he described as “just balancing the budget,” and the “major fundamental changes” he believes Republicans are making behind closed doors.

“Decisions are going to be made that are going to affect the future of this state,” Nesbitt warned. He says major policy changes and budget cuts should be weighed in committee, to make sure “the public can know that we’re thinking about it so the public can weigh in.”

Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger flatly denied this morning that decisions have been or are being made in private.

In my 2010 story, Berger said, “The secrecy that surrounds the budget-making process is something that needs to change.” The big question is whether holding the reins of power will make it more difficult for Berger and his fellow Republicans to follow through with that change.