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Hurricane relief session may mark only temporary break from partisan fights

Carolina Journal’s Dan Way reports:

Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law the $793 million Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Act on Tuesday, Oct. 16, following unanimous legislative passage. An N.C. State University political science professor says not to expect the good vibrations to last.

“We see these things fairly frequently, crises or challenges that emerge that generate quick and pretty large actions by government that are built upon bipartisan cooperation,” Andy Taylor told Carolina Journal.

“And then we resort to polarized, normal politics. That happened repeatedly at the state and national levels the past 20 years or so,” Taylor said. “It to some extent demonstrates that government can do stuff, and it need not be gridlocked,” he said.

Hurricane relief isn’t an ideological issue, so it’s hard for either party to gain advantage politically.

So where is the $793 million coming from?

Of the current round of funding $700 million will come from the state’s Rainy Day Fund. The reserve, built over a period of years under Republican-led budgeting to cushion the blow of emergencies, had about $2.1 billion.

“Yes, we are taking a large withdrawal from the Rainy Day fund for Florence Relief, but this is exactly the reason that the Rainy Day Fund exists,” said a spokesman for Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.

“Moving forward, we plan to rebuild it using the same responsible budgeting formula that allowed us to build it to $2 billion in the first place and create economic success across North Carolina for the past eight years,” the spokesman said.

Recovery fund money will come from the state Highway Fund, $65 million; Education Lottery Reserve, $25 million; Shallow Draft Navigation Channel Dredging and Aquatic Weed Fund, $2 million; and $930,477 to the state Department of Insurance for Hurricane Matthew relief.

“Many people are rebuilding their life from scratch,” Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget Committee, said during floor debate. “It’s sad to ride down the country roads and see people’s belongings for miles lined up and down the street.”

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