The General Assembly has again gone behind closed doors to hammer out the final details of a budget. It's ridiculous that lawmakers believe that the most important part of the budget process ought to be conducted in secret.
The budget fight has elicited this bizarre comment from former Fletcherite Brett Hall:
The press corps need to ask themselves whether it serves the public interest more for the legislature to deliver an on-time budget or for conferees to make TV news more interesting with clips of their bickering in the committee meetings. With only four legislative days remaining in this session, they likely can't have it both ways.
Brett's a nice guy, but he's offering us a false choice between having a budget on time (and secretively negotiated) versus no budget at all (with total transparency). Government transparency exists for the purpose of government accountability. Transparency is not its own reward and it's not good for its own sake.
The state budget is, without question, the piece of legislation for which legislators should be held most accountable. The fact that it ought to be done in daylight is nothing more than the price you pay for running around the state begging for votes (and campaign funds) so you can do the people's business in Frankfort.
If you're not interested in doing your job in the light of day, your constituents should be wondering how interested you are in keeping your job.
Grandstanding aside, most lawmakers like the fact that budgets are negotiated in secret. They may wring their hands and whine that the leadership crammed the budget down their throats and they simply "had to vote for it," but the fact is that most lawmakers simply aren't interested in taking a responsible stand on behalf of open and accountable government when it's easier to cave to pressure from leadership to shut up and obey.
When your legislator votes for the budget (and he/she probably will), ask if they had enough time to read it. If the answer is "I didn't read it, but I voted for it," then you need to scan your local community for a better candidate.