While it might seem odd, given the state’s fiscal shortcomings, that Gov. Ronnie Musgrove decided to call a separate special session to address the teacher pay raise issue instead of combining it with one on congressional redistricting, the harsh criticism of the governor’s decision has been surprising.
Or has it?
Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and House Speaker Tim Ford joined voices last week urging the governor to call a special session removing the so-called “5% provision” from the teacher pay plan passed in the 2000 legislative session. Musgrove has urged the removal of the provision, which said that if revenue growth did not exceed 5%, the pay raises would not take effect.
The timing of the Tuck-Ford press conference, and the motivation behind it, are debatable, but the idea of combining sessions isn’t all bad. A special session costs taxpayers more than $30,000 a day, and with tax collections low and budgets stretched thin throughout state government, every dollar does count.
However, the bombastic tone of rhetoric from the the lieutenant governor, the speaker and other members of the Legislature, indicates a situation which is more about politics than policy or prudent use of tax dollars.
Ladies and gentlemen, Campaign 2003 has begun, and it only gets wilder from here.
Our state faces a number of important issues in the coming months: redistricting, budget hearings, another legislative session, an economy that could grow or slow and the simmering racial situation that didn’t end with last April’s flag referendum.
How well these issues and others are resolved depends in large part on how well our elected officials conduct themselves as leaders instead of politicians.
The challenges are great. The best way to meet them successfully is for the posturing to end and the leadership to begin.