The News & Observer reported today that, as of the new year, state employees are no longer be entitled to free bus travel downtown. Now they have to pay for their transportation, just like everyone else. I don’t know how many state employees use the bus, so I don’t know how much difference this change will make, but I’m glad to see it’s happening. It’s not that I don’t like buses, or that I don’t want state employees to be able to travel. But North Carolina’s state spending has grown tremendously over recent years, and every time a state employee travels on the bus without paying his own way, we the taxpayers of NC pick up the bill.
Cutting free bus benefits will certainly come nowhere close to filling the kinds of gaps in the budget that NC is currently facing – like $34.2 billion in unfunded liabilities for state employee retirement health benefits – but at least it’s a step that recognizes the finite nature of state budgets. North Carolina simply can’t afford to pay for everything for everyone. Let state employees pay for their own transportation, like all the rest of us do. And let legislators get on with the business of finding other places where state spending can be cut in far more significant ways.