Union County Pulse: Budgets, bills and fire fees

Gov. Perdue presented her budget (two weeks ago) at a Monday evening session. Much time has since been taken in committee to digest the near 400-page budget summary.

Personally, I was very disappointed in the budget as presented. Perdue chose to renege on her promise to end the Temporary Sales Tax implemented two years ago to balance a budget already spinning out of control. This year’s budget again transfers costs from the state to towns and counties but without the funds for such programs as school bus replacement and workers’ compensation.

This results in millions of dollars in new expense for counties. The General Assembly is faced with finding nearly $2.5 billion in additional cuts in order to balance the budget and keep our promise to North Carolina to not raise taxes.

The Appropriations sub-committees are: Education, Transportation, Justice & Public Safety, Health & Human Services, Natural & Economic Resources and General government. They are already reviewing programs and personnel in great detail in order to determine where the cuts will be made.

Several local bills also have taken up a great amount of time. Annexation issues have dominated much of the floor debate lately, as many new legislators introduced bills to roll back involuntary annexation actions by various towns in their districts. There are a number of such bills awaiting debate and even more in discussion.

I am a strong proponent of property rights and have consistently spoken out against involuntary annexation, not only in Union County but across the state. The state constitution allows such action, one of only a few states that do, so care must be taken to insure we move carefully to protect the sense of the law and the rights of the individual property owners.

I have filed two local bills, both at the request of local governing boards: one to remove the sunset provision ending Fire Fees in Union County and one to allow the City of Monroe to raise the ceiling on parking fines to bring them into line with other towns across the state. Although I personally do not believe Fire Fees to be either a fair or sufficient system to fund our volunteer fire companies, the Union County Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution asking Sen. Tommy Tucker and I to remove the sunset provision that would eliminate these fees.

Subsequent to a commitment by the board to implement a fair and equitable funding mechanism during this term of the board, Sen. Tucker and I have filed bills in our respective chambers to comply with their request. In the case of the City of Monroe, we received a resolution from the mayor and city council requesting state legislation to allow parking fines to be set at a level commensurate with other similar towns across North Carolina. At this time, neither the House or Senate has taken final action on either of these issues.

I have been quite disappointed at the extent to which the government in North Carolina micro-manages the counties and towns across this state.  North Carolina is not a “home-rule” state and therefore requires entirely too many issues to be determined by Raleigh. In North Carolina, the state government deals with local board appointments, annexations, parking fines and even golf carts. Way too much time is spent on these issues when all the while employment continues to erode and the economy stagnates. I don’t believe this a good way to do business.

In addition to the budget challenges, the coming re-alignment of election districts is gathering great attention in Raleigh. Union County, with its two congressional districts and split into one full and two partial state legislative districts, will have a much different political look in a few months. The county population is now more than 200,000, making it the 10th largest county in the state. District 68 is North Carolina’s largest legislative district with over 140,000 residents, a 99 percent growth rate in 10 years. North Carolina’s population has more than 9.5 million residents. So, District 68 has to be chopped to just fewer than 80,000 people. As a result, Union County will pick up a second full and most of a third member of the House and not have to share a state senator with Mecklenburg County as we do now. There also will be changes in the Congressional landscape. The 9th Congressional District must shrink by nearly 120,000 people while the 8th Congressional District is nearly 25,000 short of the necessary population. Union County will have a complete new political look with the 2012 elections. Rep. Justin Burr, who presently represents a small portion of Union County, is vice-chairman of the House Redistricting Committee led by senior-chair Rep. David Lewis of Harnett County. David is a Republican National Committeeman and is well respected for his integrity and thoroughness. I am confident that we will work quickly to create fair and legal districts in North Carolina that will be both well-received and upheld in any judicial review.

Please stay in touch, visit my webpage, www.CraigHorn.com, for frequent updates and don’t let me make decisions with my head in a sack.

Rep. Craig Horn,

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