Christensen: Only women should negotiate state budget

rchristensen@newsobserver.comJuly 12, 2014 

Having covered North Carolina legislatures since the 1970s, I have come to the conclusion that budget negotiations could be resolved much more quickly with one simple solution.

No one should be allowed to participate in the budget negotiations unless they are wearing makeup and heels. That is, men should be barred from budget negotiations and replaced by women.

I come to this conclusion after following the House-Senate budget negotiations last week in which the Senate walked out and in which there were threats made to stay until Christmas.

This is the sort of mau mauing/so’s-your-mama/I’m-prepared-to-wait-till-hell-freezes-over posturing that is the norm in budget negotiations in Raleigh, no matter whether Republicans or Democrats are in control. And it is relatively mild when compared to the government shutdown shenanigans of Washington.

Much of this is being fueled by testosterone – the natural male drive to prevail, to show off, to engage in competition, to heckle or even humiliate the opponent and to never back down. It is sometimes said that sports and politics are male substitutes for battle. It is no wonder that one of the fastest growing sales of drugs is testosterone creams.

There are, of course, real policy issues involved, including the size of teacher salaries, the number of teacher aides, and the funding of Medicaid, which is the health insurance program for the poor, the disabled and many elderly people.

But exasperating the policy differences are male egos and questions about political power and will. House Speaker Thom Tillis wants to make his points in his U.S. Senate bid. Gov. Pat McCrory wants to show that he is his own man. And Senate leader Phil Berger doesn’t want to give up control of the conservative revolution. Last year they were arguing over who was the baddest, toughest conservative hombre in town.This year, they are arguing over who can give teachers the biggest raise.

Women, of course, have egos. But they are much more likely to set aside their differences and sensibly work out a compromise – which is what will eventually happen anyway when everybody gets tired of the posturing.

So if the lawmakers really want to get out of town, Berger should appoint an all-female conference committee headed by Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary, while Tillis appoints an all-female committee headed by Rep. Ruth Samuelson of Charlotte. McCrory could send over Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker to represent the administration.

An agreement would be reached in no time, and the legislature would go home. But that would deprive the guys of days and maybe weeks of more posturing, jaw flapping and chest bumping.

Christensen: 919-829-4532 or

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