It hasn’t been very often this year when you could look at a move made by the N.C. General Assembly and think, “That was a sensible thing to do. I’m glad they did it.”
But that’s what comes to mind upon consideration of how the N.C. House reversed itself on Monday concerning state funding for a Durham-to-Orange light rail line.
The legislature’s new budget had effectively killed the $1.5 billion project, which authorities in the two counties had spent years planning. It had competed with highway projects under the state’s new Strategic Transportation Investments law, designed to take the taint of politics out of transportation decisions.
It was in line for $138 million in state money until the new budget came out. Someone sneaked in language barring the state Department of Transportation from spending more than $500,000 on any light rail project. It effectively killed the project, and raised new questions about future rail projects in Charlotte.
This rail-killer came about as many of the worst ideas in Raleigh tend to – at the last minute, behind closed doors, and with no one willing to stand up publicly and admit that they did it. It was yet another example of what one critic on Twitter dubbed #BigGovernmentRepublicans at it again, inserting themselves into local policy matters without invitation or warning. Only this time, they were even doing so in contradiction to the spirit of their own 2013 transportation law.
There’s a word for that: incoherence.
The Senate is supposed to take up the reversal today. Hopefully, it will pass that chamber as well.
Judging from their recent track record, the General Assembly will give us more occasions to apply unflattering adjectives to its work. (Raleigh was abuzz Tuesday as a last-minute move to strip authority from local governments on issues such as the minimum wage and non-discrimination suddenly moved to the forefront).
But on the light rail issue, lawmakers should be commended for having the willingness to admit that they made a mistake, and for being willing to correct it. One can only hope they’ll apply the same logic to some of the other ill-conceived pieces of legislation they’ve passed in recent years. Eric Frazier