In Brief…

An out-of-control General Assembly and rising water rates

Hold Legislators Accountable?

Looks like we’re moving to a full-time Legislature in Raleigh after all.

Legislators there were not able to agree on a fiscal year 2015-2016 budget by the June 30 deadline, which meant the lawmakers passed a temporary spending plan to keep the government operating while the final budget details were hammered out.

Keep in mind, the GOP controls both the House and the Senate as well as the governor’s seat, so one would think fighting over the spending measure wouldn’t be too divisive.

Yet that spending deadline came with no budget, so the lawmakers extended the temporary spending plan to Aug. 31. Now, they’re saying no budget will be forthcoming by then, with expectations of another temporary spending plan.

Temporary spending plans often are more costly than the regular, long-term budget spending, the legislators have run up an extra tab of more than a million dollars — soon to eclipse $2 million — with their extra time in Raleigh (some have put the cost at roughly $50,000 a day), while schools and other state-funded institutions are having to tip-toe forward, not knowing if they will have to cut positions and programs after committing to them since the start of the fiscal year.

When road crews or other construction firms are late on jobs, they are often fined for every day over the deadline. Maybe we should institute the same practice on legislators, forcing them to give up some of their legislative money — if they had to lay off their staffs (who actually do the bulk of the legislative work) or dig into their own pockets if a budget isn’t done by June 30, we suspect the General Assembly would never be late.

Then again, maybe voters should consider instituting the ultimate penalty — replacing the General Assembly that can’t get its job done on time.

Water rate hikes temporary?

Last week the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed a North Carolina Utilities Commission ruling which allowed Aqua North Carolina, the state’s largest non-government operated utilities provider, to increase its rates.

This is important locally because 45 private water systems get their water, and in some cases sewer service, from Aqua North Carolina.

We understand the firm’s take on this — water quality is below par in many of their systems, and company officials believe upgrading the system would increase water quality, giving customers what they should already be getting. In order to do the upgrades, however, the company must increase rates to pay for the work.

Our question is, once the work is paid for, will Aqua North Carolina drop rates, or will that extra money simply become extra profit?

An out-of-control General Assembly and rising water rates
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