In all the hyperpolitical madness surrounding the federal government shutdown, North Carolinians can find some comfort in a voice of reason emerging from the offices of neighboring governors.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced plans for the neighboring states to pitch in with regional money to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The beautiful canopy of fall colors flourishing all over North Carolina’s mountains belies the ugliness of what has been going on in Washington during the partial shutdown. And lawmakers, at last, seemed headed toward a resolution, albeit temporary, before the debt ceiling was scheduled to expire today, throwing the United States into a possible default of its financial obligations.
McCrory and Hasalm wisely realized that nothing in Washington is guaranteed these days. McCrory announced Wednesday that North Carolina will pitch in $75,000 and Tennessee and two of its counties will spend $305,000 to reopen the park.
October usually marks the peak of the fall tourism season, and the Great Smoky Mountains draws more visitors than any other national park.
That’s a huge source of revenue for neighboring counties and a critical source of sales tax revenue, as well. A study by an economist at Western Carolina University has estimated that 18 counties in North Carolina and Tennessee have lost a total of $33 million that normally would have been spent by tourists.
The roar of the Washington budget fiasco isn’t likely to subside in a permanent way any time soon. But at least we can escape to the majesty of the Smokies when the madness of our national leaders becomes too much to bear.