There are many balls in the air right now in the North Carolina legislature. Where several will land depend upon the whims of “moderate” democratic legislators. These men and women are the new “swing votes” that are needed by House and Senate Republicans to override a veto of any bill by Governor Cooper.
With this power comes great….well….power.
We saw this play out in Cumberland County this week. African American and Democratic State Senator Ben Clark voted in favor of the Republican budget in the Senate. Why did he do it? A few lines from Paul Wolverton’s recent column may shed some light:
“On Facebook, Clark outlined things that drew his favor:
– $2.5 million for infrastructure at Fayetteville State University.
– $1 million to build an annex for the Hoke County Courthouse.
– Public School Construction money — $35 million for Cumberland County and $18 million for Hoke County.
– $20 million for construction at Fayetteville Technical Community College and $6.5 million for Sandhills Community College.
“It’s notable that neither the Fayetteville State University money nor the Hoke County Courthouse money were originally in the budget. Clark said he requested those two items.”
In sum, Clark got “his” or “his District’s” (whichever way you want to think about it) and was satisfied enough to vote with Republicans. A pessimistic person might say that Clark “sold out.” A practical person might say that’s how the sausage is made and Hoke and Cumberland could use a little pork right now.
Regardless, we have a lesson in how Republicans can accomplish their major priorities and weaken Governor Cooper by throwing bones to swing Democrats.
Now take that lesson and apply it to a bigger project with more money on the line: The Civil War Museum planned for Fayetteville:
Representative John Szoka introduced legislation to fund the museum back in April ($55 million over the next two years). Not much has happened with his legislation. More importantly, there’s no mention of the museum in the current Senate budget online.
If this is going to get done, someone from the Cumberland County delegation is going to have to use political capital to make it happen. Either Szoka has enough swing within his own party to get the museum funded, or some Democratic legislator from Cumberland will agree to override Cooper’s veto if the money’s included. Senator Clark has already used up his capital by voting for a budget that didn’t include the funds for the museum, so look elsewhere.
If you’re frustrated, the mayor of Fayetteville shares your concerns:
I wrote about Colvin’s about-face on the museum project in an earlier post. In light of what is happening in this year’s budget process, Colvin’s starting to make a lot of sense. His suggestion for our local delegation: use your political capital wisely on things we absolutely need, and we have lots of needs in Cumberland County right now.
It will be interesting to see whether local Democrats can join forces with Szoka and get the $55 million for Fayetteville. Maybe the more important question is what they will trade in the process. Does it mean siding against their Governor, effectively stripping him of his veto power? We’ll know soon enough.
Whether you like it or not, this is how deals get done on Jones Street. Now’s the time to place your bet on how much cash trickles down I-40, merges onto 95-South, and finds a place at the top of Haymount Hill.
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