Under the Dome

Perdue's stand on health plan: Don't burden states

July 22, 2009 

While Gov. Beverly Perdue supports efforts to overhaul the national health-care system, she is worried that state governments will get stuck with the bill.

"We are all hungry for a solution, but the absolute deal breaker for me as governor is a federal plan that shifts costs to the states," Perdue said in a statement Tuesday.

Perdue, a Democrat, echoed the sentiments of many of her fellow governors who attended the summer meeting of the National Governor's Association in Biloxi, Miss., over the weekend. The governors expressed concern that President Barack Obama's plan would not do enough to hold down health spending and would shift more of the costs of Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor, to the states.

Perdue skipped the meeting to stay in Raleigh in case she was needed for the budget negotiations, according to her staff.

The governor said the concerns of the states must be heard as Congress puts together a new health care plan.

"I urge our federal leaders to find a national solution that will provide access to affordable care for everyone without putting the financial burden on states," Perdue said. "Put simply, a national health-care system must provide the right care, at the right time, at the right place -- and at a price that people, and states, can afford."

Old hat at financial strain

Former N.C. Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr. told business leaders Tuesday that while state government is in a budget crisis now, the state judicial system has been in a severe financial crisis for decades.

"This is due entirely to a protracted, gross, and yes, unconstitutional underfunding of our judicial system by our legislature," Lake told the Triangle Business Leader Associates at the Sheraton Hotel.

He said the judicial branch's share of government spending has declined from 2.8 percent to 2.1 percent of overall state spending since he stepped down as chief justice in 2006. The signs of the system fraying are everywhere, he said.

Lake voiced support for a new law that would give the judicial branch new authority to set its own priorities in how it spends the available funds.

"A national survey recently conducted reveals no other state in which the court system's budget is restricted the way it is in North Carolina," said Lake.

No need to wait

People who go for drinks at private clubs -- read, bars -- won't have to wait for membership applications to be approved before they're allowed to enjoy their beverages under a bill the Senate approved Monday night.

The bill passed the Senate 30-13 and now goes to the governor for her signature. The bill removes the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission's authority to require clubs to adopt waiting periods for new members.

Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, tried to add a population limit to the proposal. He suggested making the measure apply only to counties with at least 150,000 people, and raising the bar to 160,000 people after the next census.

The concern is that restaurants in rural areas will face unfair competition, Berger said.

Restaurants must show that at least 30 percent of their income comes from selling food and that no more than 70 percent comes from alcohol sales.

Restaurants in rural areas may lose customers to clubs that don't have to meet that requirement for food sales, Berger said.

After some debate over what would be best for tourism, the amendment failed 20-23.

Testing the waters

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall says it would take serious cash, $15 million or so, to mount a serious challenge to U.S. Sen. Richard Burr next year.

Marshall, a Democrat, told Hotline on Call, a National Journal blog, that she is planning a second trip to Washington to meet with party officials and donors to "test the waters."

"Let's face it, it's hard to run a campaign in North Carolina," Marshall said. "You can't do it without some outside money. So these are the things I'm assessing."

Marshall has joined a Facebook group urging her to run.

"Elaine Marshall has never shied away from a challenge," the page explains. "Join our group to urge Secretary Marshall to run for U. S. Senate."

By staff writers Rob Christensen, Lynn Bonner and Benjamin Niolet.

rob.christensen@ newsobserver.com or 919-829-4532

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