Policymaking in North Carolina:
Agendas, Budgets, and Public Education
The evening news broadcasts and the daily headlines identify public problems and reflect citizens' concerns. "Crisis: N.C. Crime Rate Grew by 9% Last Year, sbi Reports." "Bridges Need Piles of Money." "Report Calls N.C. Unhealthy." "N.C. Ships Most of Its Waste Elsewhere, Report Says." "Bill Would Protect Textile Industry from Imports." "Legislative Budget Options Boiling Down to Tax Issues." "State Share of Medicaid for Poor May Top $550 Million." "Many Share Blame for Budget Mess." "Child Abuse Cases Up to New High." "Some Area Schools Gain, Others Drop on sats." "Dispute over Education Plans Blocks Agreement on Budget."
The calls for action and the suggestions from interested parties cascade. A legislative commission issues a plan for dealing with prison overcrowding, a consequence of high crime and high incarceration. The governor calls a news conference to reveal his request for a twenty-year road-building plan that includes funds for infrastructure repair. The Waste Management Commission seeks sites that are environmentally and politically sound to bury or incinerate mounting refuse. An interest group, the Textile Manufacturers Association, calls for action by state and federal officials to save the jobs of Tarheels in a traditional industry. The Democratic and Republican party chairmen take conflicting stands on the state's budget crisis—one opposing higher taxes to restrain the growth of government, the other calling for careful budget cuts and increased taxes, which should be progressive and spare those least able to pay but most in need.
The problems are legion. Resources are limited. Responses and proposals issue from many interests reflecting sometimes complementary and occasionally contradictory perspectives. Coalitions are formed. Conflicts develop. Focused attention is difficult. Rights clash. Well-meaning citizens