It’s an old custom that used to turn Republicans red in the face: Powerful legislators earmarking money for special projects back home. Oh, the Republicans used to get exercised about it something fierce, as former Sen. Marc Basnight, president pro tem, and Sen. Tony Rand, then majority leader, took care of special projects for special people back home and other causes of interest to them.
Republican House Speaker Tim Moore, as The News & Observer’s Colin Campbell recently reported, is following in the not-so-grand tradition of the Democratic leaders of old.
The speaker, a lawyer from the Cleveland County town of Kings Mountain, has slipped some nice items into the state budget now under consideration. There’s the grant for water and sewer infrastructure, to go to towns under 12,000 people. Kings Mountain has 10,000.
Then there’s the $200,000 grant for the American Legion World Series, which has an annual baseball tournament in the Cleveland County seat of Shelby. The region has a long and grand history with American Legion baseball.
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And Moore also wants to establish a $10 million grant fund for local libraries. He sought, unsuccessfully, to get Kings Mountain $1.5 million for a new library in 2013.
Outrageously, Moore declined to be interviewed about his special work for his district. A public official has an obligation to explain such things.
None of the things for which Moore is seeking taxpayer funding is bad or unworthy. Just about all communities in North Carolina, having gone through economic downturns and job losses and the like, could use a boost to their infrastructures. But if austerity is going to be the GOP approach to budgeting, then all communities should share in the pain.
Moore is simply flexing his muscle here, with funds provided by the taxpayers of North Carolina. It’s the method that’s the problem, trying to hand out money on the sole say-so of a powerful lawmaker.
“That’s sort of how the system works,” said one of Moore’s colleagues.
But that’s not how things should be done. Let all proposed such appropriations come before committees and the public. Let those who proposed them defend them. Let the people have a say. Republicans didn’t like the “old way” when they weren’t in power, and they could set a better example now.
That’s how the system should work.