If Republican leaders in the General Assembly are so proud, so certain of their wisdom in sneaking into the state budget an item that could and probably would kill light-rail transit prospects in Orange and Durham counties, why won’t they say who did it?
Yet no one will take credit for it, reports The News & Observer’s Road Worrier, Bruce Siceloff. The final budget, drafted by Republicans and passed by the state House and Senate, includes a change in the State Transportation Improvement Program. The STI, as it’s called, had allocated $138 million over the next 10 years for the light-rail project. That’s less than 10 percent of the project’s cost and considerably less than the 25 percent Charlotte got for its first light-rail line, which has been wildly popular.
That’s one reason Gov. Pat McCrory, former Charlotte mayor, has been a strong advocate for light rail. And it’s why he blasted the General Assembly, and by implication the Republican leadership, for putting a “light-rail killer” in the final budget. Basically, the “killer” limits state spending on light rail to $500,000 on any project. So that STI money virtually will be erased.
As to the anonymous individual who put the killer in the budget, the governor said that person or persons “should have the courage to speak up and say, yeah, I did this behind closed doors.”
Don’t hold your breath, Governor.
Even worse, some Republicans, while not taking credit for this despicable bit of sleight of hand, are bragging about it.
Republican Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam of Apex, a bully on Jones Street now, thinks the kill bill is great. He said, “Light rail is sort of a dinosaur of the 20th century or the 19th century. If the cities want to do it, fine. But the state shouldn’t chip in on it.” That is a nonsensical statement, pure and simple.
Does Stam not realize that light rail projects in the Triangle might help his own hometown? Does he not understand that when cities prosper those communities around them benefit with more jobs, better schools, etc.? The cities and smaller communities in North Carolina need to be working together, not against each other.
On second thought ... within a day or so of his sanctimonious glee, Stam seemed to be backing up, with some Republicans saying maybe they’d get that $500,000 cap out of the bill. What a difference a day, and likely some intervention from heavy-hitting business leaders, can make.
But this maneuver, or attempted maneuver if it changes, just shows how political muscle-flexing by Republicans, stumbling through the last legislative session with a budget two months late, leads to utter foolishness and destructive legislation. That this has even been attempted is a disgrace.