Last November North Carolina voted for change. We are certainly getting it. At the current pace and expectations state government will undergo the biggest changes most of us have seen.
In charge of both the executive and legislative branches of government for the first time since Reconstruction, Republicans feel the wind at their backs and believe themselves up to the task of reforming a government that has largely operated on a status-quo basis for years.
The reform agenda is lengthy and highly ambitious. Senate Bill 10 radically changes the makeup and membership of the most important boards and commissions in our state and could significantly alter future regulations and rules. It offers the opportunity to appoint new members, but in some cases changes who can make those appointments, forcing the governor to share appointive authority with legislators. That same reform fervor would force agencies of government to conduct regular reviews to determine need, necessity, impact of changes to rules and regulations.
The need for tax reform is evident. This might be the year we see significant changes to tax codes that were basically put in place in the 1930s. Just as evident has been the need to reform in our state’s Medicaid program and our leadership obviously isn’t timid in making bold decisions. We’ve known for years our public infrastructure system isn’t adequate for today’s needs, much less for the future, and we expect a strategic plan this year or next to begin repairs and upgrades to those unaddressed needs.
When the governor proposed and the legislature quickly passed a bill to establish a new vocational track diploma we saw the opening salvo of what promises to be major reforms in education. Without the likelihood of a gubernatorial veto expect reforms that demand more fiscal responsibility and outcome accountability.
Nowhere will those demands be more evident than in our public universities. Upcoming House and Senate elections to the UNC Board of Governors will put Republicans solidly in control and you will hear echoes in demands for accountability, fiscal responsibility and outcomes. And expect greater cooperation and communications between public and higher education divisions to remove, or at least minimize, the existing silos.
It isn’t an overstatement to say that every man, woman and child will be affected by these changes but that shouldn’t deter us from the task. Government is nothing more than a social contract and every generation faces new and different challenges and opportunities, so we should periodically review and revise that contract. We haven’t had a top to bottom examination and revision to what and how state government operates in more than 40 years. We are long overdue.
A word of caution to our government leaders is appropriate.
Do not yield to the siren song of power, believing yours a mandate to do as you please. North Carolinians voiced their desire for change, but they expect positive change, fair change, change that will improve life for all, not just a select few. There is as much danger in hasty and poorly conceived change as there is in being too timid to change. We are impressed with your willingness to act but urge you to take the time to carefully consider the impact those changes will have on our state.
Campbell is a former assistant state treasurer and creator and host of NC Spin, a weekly panel discussion on state politics that air on public television.