Under the Dome

House budget writers are at your mercy Tuesday

April 27, 2009 

The House plans a public hearing Tuesday to get input on the state budget.

It's a rare chance for people from across the state to whine, vent, or compliment the state's spending. You can participate in person or through video hookups at several community colleges around North Carolina.

House budget writers are expecting the inevitable flood of interest groups and lobbyists. But, says Bill Holmes, spokesman for House Speaker Joe Hackney, "They're hoping to hear as much as they can from real people who are not always engaged in this process."

The hearing will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the auditorium of the N.C. Museum of History, 5 E. Edenton St.

Video hookups will be available on the following campuses:

Johnston Community College, Smithfield

Bladen Community College, Dublin

Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte

Fayetteville Technical Community College, Fayetteville

Forsyth Technical Community College, Winston-Salem

Pamlico Community College, Grantsboro

Southwestern Community College, Sylva

Surry Community College, Dobson

Vance-Granville Community College, Henderson

Martin Community College, Williamston

The House will accept e-mailed comments through midnight Tuesday at town.hall@ncleg.net.

Stimulus spending in N.C.

Where is North Carolina's federal stimulus money going?

A bimonthly report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office has a breakdown of where some of the money has gone so far:

MEDICARE/MEDICAID: As of April 1, the state had drawn down $414.6 million extra for Medicare and Medicaid programs to offset the budget deficit.

ROADS AND BRIDGES: As of April 16, the N.C. Department of Transportation had designated about $165 million for 53 projects in economically distressed areas.

EDUCATION: As of April 2, the state has been allocated about $952 million to pay for education, but it has not yet determined how to spend it.

In addition, North Carolina expects to receive $80 million for worker training, $34.5 million for crime control grants and other money for a low-income housing tax credit program.

Overall, the state is expected to receive $6.1 billion.

Delegation's favorite words

What does North Carolina's delegation talk about in Congress?

The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on government transparency, has created a fun new way to answer that question.

The Capitol Words project uses speeches recorded in the Congressional Record to measure the frequency of specific words used by each member of Congress.

Some results from the past year are obvious. Reps. G.K. Butterfield, Mike McIntyre, Heath Shuler, Howard Coble and Bob Etheridge basically said "North Carolina" the most.

Sen. Richard Burr, who is the ranking member of the Veterans Affairs committee, said the word "veterans" the most -- about 277 times.

Rep. Walter Jones, who represents Camp Lejeune, said "Marine" 98 times, while Rep. David Price, who heads an Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, said "security" 48 times.

Other results were a bit surprising. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican, said the word "Democrats" 428 times -- the most of any word used by the delegation.

The unkindest cut

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards gets no respect.

One of his GOP rivals for the White House, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, zings Edwards in a fundraising letter.

"We need fiscal sanity in government," Huckabee writes. "Congress is truly spending like John Edwards in a beauty shop (sorry I couldn't resist.)"

Edwards, of course, took a lot of flak for his $400 haircuts during his presidential run.

By staff writers Benjamin Niolet, Ryan Teague Beckwith and Rob Christensen.

ben.niolet@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4521

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