House Speaker Tim Moore and Phil Berger, president pro-tem of the state Senate, are acting as Republican leaders with monumental vindictiveness and immaturity.
For no reason other than partisanship, Moore and Berger slashed $10 million from Attorney General Josh Stein’s budget, which could force him to lay off 123 full-time employees, including attorneys and technology support and human resources people. These are not partisan operatives. They do good work for the UNC system, for state commissioners and for statewide departments like that of the state treasurer. They are the people’s lawyers.
But Republicans Moore and Berger apparently couldn’t care less, and their childish partisanship and endless desire to engage in “payback” for what they view as years of Democrat rule in which Republicans got the short end of every straw is going to hurt the people of North Carolina.
Stein, a Democrat, now is trying to get other agencies to contribute money to make up the GOP-created shortfall in his budget. This is a creative way to try to overcome the damage Republicans are trying to do, but the AG shouldn’t have to do it.
Stein was elected statewide by the people. They gave him a mandate to do the job, to serve them. Moore and Berger, elected from districts, are simply being petty and abusing their power in a disgraceful way.
If this were revenge being taken on Stein alone, it still would be reprehensible, but it’s the people of North Carolina who will suffer because of these cuts. The people’s business will not get done, and thus lawsuits against the state will not be defended, regulatory disputes will not be settled.
It’s as if Moore and Berger are slapping the people of North Carolina in the face: “You voted for the Democrat? We’ll show you. Here goes his budget. Vote the way we tell you to vote or there will be more of this.”
There’s no doubt about the motive here, because the budget cut wasn’t even in earlier working versions of the state budget; it showed up at the last minute, the better to avoid debate and to deny Stein a chance to speak publicly about the damage that would be done.
Stein, a Harvard-educated lawyer and former state senator, is likely particularly annoying to Republicans because he was a formidable debater and because he’s clearly marked for future high office by Democrats. But he headed the consumer protection division of the AG’s office for years, knows the turf better than anyone, and has been a strong protector of individual rights and against, for example, gambling interests that would like to gain a foothold in the state.
Republicans could gain credibility if they demonstrated they wanted to work with Stein on behalf of consumers. Instead, Moore and Berger stay in the sandbox.