Budget Vote Fails the Integrity Test
I pride myself on being clear eyed about politics. To be honest, I love the tussle of the arena. But what happened last month in the General Assembly has shaken me to my core. It has tested my faith in government, and made me fear that the trust of the public is eroding.
On September 10th, Republican leadership told House Democrats and the media that there wouldn’t be any votes the next morning. On the morning of September 11th, however, House Republicans showed up ready to override the Governor’s budget veto. With the vast majority of House Democrats away from the floor, the Speaker of the House called for a budget override, refused to allow debate or to hear Democratic procedural objections, and the override passed.
Prior to this indefensible trickery, Democrats had been successful in upholding Gov. Cooper’s veto for about 60 days. The combination of a lie and brute power took our votes away completely.
Lying to wield power is the worst of what voters despise about politics.
Beyond the deceit is the timing. 18 years – almost to the minute – since the foundations of our country were tested by acts of hatred and cowardice, somehow, some way, Republican leadership in the House decided that it was the right moment to circumvent the democratic process in this state through deceit and lies. September 11th, a day forever seared into our nation’s consciousness, a day marked by unimaginable heroism and courage by Americans, is the day Republican leadership decided to trick fellow North Carolinians and strong arm the passage of the budget.
Is nothing sacred?
Some have argued that all is fair in politics, or that it’s a dirty game and Democrats should have never fallen for Republicans tricks. I have no time for the hyperpartisanship of either side, including my own. Ultimately, the “Democrats should play dirty too” argument fails my own test of integrity. Without morals, without principles, what is this all for? For power? For the sake of winning?
Lying for power is the path that Republicans took, however. House Speaker Tim Moore decided to take the dirty path; he lied to win a vote, he cheated to avoid procedural movements that might block it, and he stole the votes of millions of North Carolinians who deserved to have their legislators present in the chamber to cast votes in their names.
And to what end? To pass a budget that withholds health care from 500,000 North Carolinians? A budget that disrespects teachers and gives them a raise of less than half of what Governor Cooper proposed? A budget that gives massive tax breaks to corporations while school buildings all across the state crumble?
The people of North Carolina deserve a better process and a better outcome. The budget veto is now up for debate in the Senate. I call on all of my Senate colleagues — of both parties — to do better than the House by negotiating a bi-partisan budget compromise. It’s not too late to renew the public’s faith in elected officials and in our democratic processes. And while it’s always possible to vote lying politicians out, I would strongly prefer it if my colleagues would simply rise to the challenge of acting with the integrity that North Carolinians should expect of us.
Graig Meyer is the State Representative for House District 50. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.