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I’m frequently asked what Governor Hunt would do in Governor Perdue’s situation – since he faced the first Republican House majority 16 years ago.
Here’s what he did: Got what he could. Then picked a fight.
Of course, much was different then. Democrats still held the Senate. Hunt’s approval ratings were in the 60s. The economy – and budget – were strong.
Also, Hunt had been at odds with House Democrats on two big issues: crime and gubernatorial veto. So he cozied up to Republicans, who agreed with him on both, and got them passed. (Republicans may live to regret the veto.)
Hunt even talked then-Speaker Harold Brubaker into cosponsoring his Good Schools Act – including higher pay for teachers.
Then Hunt picked a couple of strategic fights. Smart Start was one. The other came in the summer of 1996 – when Hunt was up for reelection. His opponent was then-state Rep. Robin Hayes.
When budget talks broke down late that summer, the House adjourned. “We’re out of here,” Hayes famously said.
So Hunt began travelling around the state. He held hearings on how the lack of a budget was hurting schools, community colleges, law enforcement, human services and on and on.
The Republicans caved. And Hunt cruised to reelection.
Take what lesson you will.


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2 comments on “What Would Jim Hunt Do?

  1. dap916 says:

    There certainly is a lesson to be learned there. The one thing I always admired Jim Hunt for is his dedication to education in North Carolina. Wouldn’t it be nice to have him back in office right now just for that one reason? But, alas, that’s not possible. But, the lesson is…although we are in a new age now with new problems for our legislators to deal with, there are still the same responsibilities our state has with regard to education and public safety. Republicans will be well advised to not go any further in using those to improve our budget shortfalls. This will be a loser for them. They are an easy target (excuse the word) but there is so much waste and corruption within so many other areas in our state government that seems to be “off limits” because of political reasons.

    If the new republican-led legislature or if Perdue or even if a combination of both the republicans and Perdue go any further in reducing funding to education and our law enforcement, they’re going to not only fail our state’s citizens, they’re going to see a huge backlash at the polls.

    This $3+ billion deficit NC is realizing can be rectified but it shouldn’t be done on the backs of our children or the teachers or those that keep us safe. I hope republicans see what you’re saying and make the hard political choices necessary to get our state back in the black.

  2. Carbine says:

    The problem is you can’t fit the existing education and public safety budgets inside the projected revenues and still have enough left over to run the state and meet its obligations. Education must and will be cut–it comprises nearly 60% of our total budget–the only questions are by how much, and in what line items.

    We have perhaps the finest system of higher education in the nation, and we (the taxpayers) pay through the nose for it. We can’t afford to keep doing that. I would urge the General Assembly to make serious cuts in the UNC system first, so we don’t have to cut back on teacher positions so drastically. Even so, we are going to have to cut some teacher (and teacher assistant) positions.

    And as for all other areas of state government, God help them because the day of reckoning is upon them now.

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