Let’s play Budget Keep Away

Plus, a fascinating origin story of Memorial Day

I’ll keep this brief. It’s Memorial Day weekend. There’s also an announcement below you should check out.

By tradition, the biennial state budget originates in alternating legislative chambers. For 2021, it’s the Senate’s turn. (The N.C. Constitution requires the governor to present a budget to the General Assembly. He did, in March. Lawmakers will ignore it, which they’ve done to most governors pretty much since the dawn of time.)

May has come and gone, and from Senate budget writers … crickets. There’s no emergency to get something done before the fiscal year ends June 30. A few years back, the General Assembly ended the requirement for the governor to sign a budget before a new fiscal year begins if there’s enough money to maintain existing government programs. There’s plenty. The state has amassed several billion dollars in operating surpluses.

The most recent General Fund budget passed in 2018, when Republicans had supermajorities in both chambers and overcame Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. Since then, Democrats have eroded the Republicans’ advantage enough to sustain Cooper’s vetoes. State government has operated under a series of continuing resolutions, aka mini-budgets, since then.

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The problem, as this story from WRAL.com notes, is that there’s a three-way argument over the bottom line. Cooper wants to spend more than the House. The House wants to spend more than the Senate. (Carolina Journal’s Donna King reports the numbers for the 2021-2022 fiscal year are $26.6 billion, $26.1 billion, and $25.6 billion, respectively.)

But the budget is supposed to originate in the Senate. Senate tax writers introduced a tax reform plan earlier this week, but it includes only revenue, not spending.

The House may move on with a separate budget. Demi Dowdy, spokeswoman for House Speaker Tim Moore, told WRAL House committees will start getting department spending numbers together next week. If the Senate doesn’t pass a budget “at some point this session,” she said, the House will pass one on its own.

Fun times ahead. Hope the A/C is working on Jones Street.

Buckle up, y’all

Next week, you’ll start to notice a pivot in the coverage on the site. It’ll take on a new focus and a sunnier vibe, or that’s the plan. I’m juiced about it. I’ll provide a preview and the reasons for the shift Tuesday. And Wednesday. And other times, too. 

Thanks for stoking this little engine. I appreciate your support more than you can know. There's new territory to cover.

Stay tuned!

Today I learned …

Memorial Day may have originated from a spontaneous effort by Black residents of Charleston, South Carolina, a few weeks after the Civil War ended. The formal recognition of “Decoration Day” may have occurred in 1868, but the initial commemoration reportedly took place before then.

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From Carl Cannon’s daily newsletter at Real Clear Politics:

On March 3, 1865, a contingent of 13 formally dressed black women -— one for each of the original colonies — presented an American flag and other gifts to the Union general commanding the occupation. On March 29, some 4,000 African Americans marched in a victory parade. And on April 14, a huge throng gathered at Fort Sumter where the shooting by Confederates began. This time, the U.S. flag was raised, not lowered. It was the same flag, too, with the same U.S. Army officer presiding — Robert Anderson, by then a retired brigadier general.

Dignitaries ranging from Abraham Lincoln’s secretary, John G. Nicolay, to abolitionist firebrand William Lloyd Garrison were present at the old fort in Charleston Harbor. When the band struck up “John Brown’s Body” and 3,000 black voices sang along, Garrison wept openly.

All these events were chronicled, though are barely remembered today. But one celebration was almost completely lost to history. It was rediscovered, well over a century later, in the archives in a Harvard library by a meticulous Yale professor named David W. Blight. This forgotten event was the decision by Charleston’s black residents to pay homage to 257 soldiers who had died in captivity in Charleston in the waning days of the war.

The men had been kept in rudimentary outdoor conditions at the city’s horse-race track. This is where the Union men died — of exposure or disease or the lingering effects of their war wounds — and where they were dumped unceremoniously in unmarked graves.

The city’s black residents decided to rebury them with appropriate solemnity in an enclosed area under the inscription “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Though they had no names to put on the grave markers, black Charlestonians held a commemoration for them on May 1, 1865. All this we know because of the diligent research of Professor Blight. He discovered that the ceremony began with 3,000 black children carrying roses and singing hymns. They were followed, in succession, by 300 women, ranks of black men, and finally soldiers — many of them black.

“And then they broke from all that and went back to the infield and essentially did what you and I do on Memorial Day,” Blight has said. “They ran races. They listened to speeches … and they held picnics. This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day — in Charleston, South Carolina.”

Here’s Howlin’ Wolf:

Did I mention it’s Memorial Day weekend?

When you have a few free minutes, read this from my good friend John Francis Trump. You’ll thank me later.

Be safe, everyone. Have a meaningful holiday weekend. See you Tuesday!

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