Gov. Beverly Perdue added substantial padding to her resume while serving as lieutenant governor, in education and as an advocate for the state in the base realignment process. Walter Dalton, her successor in that post, should do likewise as he begins his first term in a job that is widely dismissed as a steppingstone to higher office.
A former legislator like Perdue, Dalton has an opportunity to do more than preside over the Senate, attend meetings of the community college board and wait for the governor or some other high-flyer to become either a lame duck or a clay pigeon.
The state’s constitution doesn’t create that opportunity for him. All it does is place him at the disposal of the elective branches, which may assign him “additional duties.” But if he asks for the right assignments, there’s a good likelihood that one branch or the other will accommodate him — especially if he’s willing to get his hands dirty taking on tasks the others find unappealing.
How about a cost-benefit study of major statewide regulations involving health and the environment? That assignment wouldn’t usurp anyone’s authority if its object was merely to put information before the people and their government. The big risk is that some who subscribe to the essentially religious belief that regulation is never the wiser approach to problem-solving would expect him to compile a hit list of rules to be eliminated.
Given the state of the economy, and a budget shortfall that is perhaps optimistically projected to be $2 billion, here’s one that takes the same approach to an even more urgent concern: a top-to-bottom review of the state’s tax structure. No, not a “fairness” study, nor one freighted with policy recommendations. Just a straightforward determination that the tax laws are, or are not, adequate to support the most basic level of state services through recession, rapid growth in population, and on into (and through) happier times to come.
Dalton, who understands his situation, may already have an agenda. But either of these would give him work that was not merely politically inventive, but useful and timely. The voters have a long memory for office-holders who deal in straight talk.