Under the Dome

Dome: Art Pope blesses zero-based budgeting

May 8, 2013 

A House judiciary subcommittee was minding its own business Wednesday, working through a calendar of unremarkable bills, when Art Pope slipped into the room.

Pope, one of the most potent political figures in the state who also happens to be the budget director, quietly took an empty seat off to the side.

That prompted committee chairman Rep. John Blust, a Greensboro Republican, to move up his own bill from last on the agenda to accommodate Pope.

Blust’s HB984 is the latest version of his longtime effort to move the state to zero-based budgeting, which requires department heads to justify everything in their budgets every year, rather than justify only deviations from the baseline budget year to year.

Pope told the committee he supports the concept but suggested the executive branch take the first step toward that goal, with the legislature weighing in afterward. Pope said he’d like to see two state departments – Administration and Secretary of State – be the first to convert as sort of pilot projects.

Pope said he’d be open to other considerations if the Appropriations Committee has other ideas. The bill was approved and heads to that committee next.

Blust was amenable to Pope’s “suggestions.”

“I want to work with the people who will make this happen,” Blust said.

It would require the governor to begin implementing zero-based budgeting beginning July 2015 and phase it in over four fiscal years. The entire state budget would be converted for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Each department head would be required to present budget requests as if they were doing it for the first time every year, including facts and explanations for each item requested.

Norquist coming to Raleigh

Fox News regular Grover Norquist will headline a rally on the lawn behind the Legislative Building on May 16 to promote changes in the state tax code.

Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is working with Americans for Prosperity in promoting tax changes.

His North Carolina trip will include stops in Greensboro, Huntersville and Kings Mountain over several days. The tour is part of AFP’s campaign to promote a new tax code that AFP says will “tax less, tax fair, and tax simple.”

State Senate leader Phil Berger released a plan Tuesday that puts a sales tax on more goods and services – such as prescription drugs, food, doctors’ and lawyers’ bills – and gradually cuts personal and corporate income taxes.

Dallas Woodhouse, AFP North Carolina state director, said his group has not yet endorsed the Senate plan but probably will.

Holding to probe criminal laws

U.S. Rep. George Holding, a former U.S. Attorney, has been named to the newly created Overcriminalization Task Force of 2013, which will examine federal criminal laws.

The task force is part of the House Judiciary Committee. According to the news release, there are 4,500 federal crimes on the U.S. Criminal code.

The task force “will assess how to reduce federal overreach and ensure that lawbreakers are held responsible while also protecting constitutional rights and civil liberties.”

“As new federal criminal laws are created, so are burdensome federal regulations – we must look at whether federal criminal laws are efficient, relevant, and protect personal freedom,” said the Raleigh Republican.

Staff writers Craig Jarvis, Lynn Bonner and Rob Christensen

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