In light of the ongoing struggle to balance the state budget, one particularly frivolous bill introduced this session on the House floor by Rep. Sandra Spaulding Hughes (D-New Hanover) makes the job of legislating look like a piece of cake.
If passed, HB 1937, “Cooking for Change Funds,” will appropriate $500,000 to Cooking for Change, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Wilmington that helps provide economically disadvantaged adults with skills for careers in the food service industry.
Perhaps Rep. Hughes has forgotten that the state already offers high-quality, easily accessible education to its citizens in the form of the community college system. In particular, Wilmington is home to Cape Fear Community College, which offers a program in culinary technology. This curriculum is designed to provide “specific training required to prepare students to assume positions as trained culinary professionals in a variety of food service settings.”
Simply put, it is irresponsible for legislators to use taxpayers’ money to fund their pet projects, especially those that unnecessarily duplicate existing programs. According to a Wilmington District, United Methodist Church Web site, Cooking for Change is being modeled after “successful” programs in Seattle, WA; New Orleans, LA.; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, DC. So the assumption is that if it works in certain areas of the country it will automatically work in all areas of the country.
The Web site states, “The success of Cooking for Change is dependent on the village of New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick, Bladen and Columbus residents, churches, businesses and agencies. We have the opportunity to make a difference in so many lives, and, possibly break the cycle of poverty once and for all. This is not a cure-all, a pie-in-the-sky idea; Cooking for Change is a valid well planned program supported by professionals who know our target individuals.”
One thing is for certain, and that is legislators will have to prioritize their spending and only fund the most important government services. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed budgets for 2010, and lawmakers from both houses will have to settle upon further revisions in the conference committee before passing the final bill.
So when thinking about the $800 million budget shortfall the state of North Carolina currently faces, is it considered a crime to legislate $500,000 to a “possibly successful” initiative to help former inmates learn how to bake cookies?
HB 1937 is this week’s Bad Bill of the Week.