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Cooper to Senate: ‘These go to 11’

A wise sage once wrote:

When senators propose more money for school construction, available more quickly, and at lower overall costs, it won’t be a great idea to respond: “But we support a bond.”

Unless, of course, bond advocates want to come across in the same way as the Spinal Tap guitarist who cranks his amplifier up to 11.

OK, I was just kidding about the “wise sage” bit. I wrote those words last week. They ended a column suggesting that advocates of a statewide school construction bond do themselves no favors if they simply reject an alternative proposal because it’s not a bond.

One week after that column appeared, Gov. Roy Cooper issued this statement about the state Senate’s proposal to address state school construction needs:

“North Carolina should put a school bond to a vote so the people can decide whether to fix our old schools and build new ones. Skimming money that should go to teacher pay raises and other school funding is like using your gas money to buy a car. A successful school bond is a smarter way to do business because it locks down financing now and still leaves funding to get good teachers and principals in the classrooms.”

Nowhere does Cooper actually rebut the purported advantages of the Senate plan. Advocates say it would provide more money for school construction. That money would be available more quickly to school systems. Plus the state would avoid more than $1 billion in interest payments linked to a bond.

It’s the last point that makes the governor’s statement especially curious. He appears to fault Senate leaders for diverting money today to school construction — a goal all of the players in the current debate appear to agree is a top priority. But he doesn’t seem to mind the $1 billion of future interest payments that might instead “get good teachers and principals in the classrooms.”

And his analogy is odd. Buying a car always requires more than “gas money.” The question is whether the buyer has enough money on hand to pay for the car with cash, with money borrowed through financing, or with a combination of the two. In this case, Senate leaders argue that a state government taking in billions of dollars each year will have enough cash to avoid financing.

Rather than explaining why that might be a bad idea, Cooper seems to be relying on an inherent belief that a school bond must be better. It’s enough to remind me of this passage:

Lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel, portrayed by Christopher Guest, exudes an amusing cluelessness throughout the proceedings. In one scene, Tufnel explains how he turns up the volume of his performance — figuratively and literally.

His specially designed amplifier has knobs that turn from a low of zero to a maximum of 11. Tufnel compares the amp to others that max out at 10. “It’s one louder, isn’t it?”

An interviewer asks, “Why don’t you just make 10 louder, and make 10 be the top number, and make that a little louder?” Tufnel ponders the question for a couple of seconds before responding: “These go to 11.”

So committed to the notion that 11 must be louder than 10, the guitarist fails to comprehend an alternative that might accomplish the same goal.

Observers can hope that N.C. House leaders will take a different approach to their Senate colleagues’ plan.

 

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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