Commentary, News

BREAKING: CBO report says Trumpcare would cost 23 million their health insurance

The Congressional Budget Office has released its much anticipated analysis of the American Health Care Act (aka “Trumpcare”). Here’s a link to the report: https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52752

And here is a summary from the New York Times:

A bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act that narrowly passed the House this month would increase the projected number of people without health insurance by 14 million next year and by 23 million in 2026, the Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday. That 10-year figure is slightly less than originally estimated.

It would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over a decade, less than the $150 billion in savings projected in late March for an earlier version of the bill. And in states that seek waivers from rules mandating essential health coverage, the new law could make insurance economically out of reach for some sick consumers.

“Premiums would vary significantly according to health status and the types of benefits provided, and less healthy people would face extremely high premiums,” the budget office concluded.

The new forecast of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Capitol Hill’s official scorekeeper, is another blow to Republican efforts to undo President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. The Senate has already said it will make substantial changes to the measure passed by the House, but even Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, is sounding uncertain about his chances of finding a majority to repeal and replace the health law.

“I don’t know how we get to 50 at the moment,” Mr. McConnell told Reuters on Wednesday. “But that’s the goal.”

Check back later for more updates and detailed assessments from experts at the North Carolina Justice Center as to the impacts in North Carolina.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Putting a face on Hunger in North Carolina

North Carolina is the 8th hungriest state in the U.S. Each night, nearly 630,000 households, many with children, do not have enough food to eat. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as FNS or food stamps) is an extremely important tool in fighting hunger in our state. In 2015, 1.6 million North Carolinians benefited from SNAP. In addition to placing food on the table, SNAP benefits pumped $2 billion into the North Carolina economy last year.

Here’s a story driving home how critical SNAP is for North Carolinians supporting their families:

Despite SNAP’s efficiency and history of success, the program is under attack.

This year, state lawmakers are attempting to reduce the number of families who receive SNAP benefits. The N.C. Senate budget aims to eliminate SNAP for 133,000 low-income North Carolinians by eliminating a policy known as categorical eligibility.

Last year, state lawmakers imposed an unnecessary three-month time limit on adults who need SNAP who are living in communities with little or no job opportunities. As a result of this policy, up to 100,000 people may be denied SNAP benefits while they work to get themselves back on their feet.

The president’s budget, released yesterday, aims to shift the costs of SNAP away from the federal government, and onto the states. Over the next ten years, North Carolina would have to come up with $3.9 billion in order to continue to provide SNAP to people who need it.

Many of the attacks on SNAP and other programs are based on stereotypes and misconceptions about who in our state needs help. If policy makers took a closer look, they would see that programs like SNAP help people like Darrell who are simply doing their best to make ends meet in spite of circumstances.

A strong North Carolina is one where everyone—children, adults, the elderly, the employed and those out of work—is in a position to succeed and do their best. If we choose support those who need help the most, rather than punishing them, we can help North Carolina thrive.

Brian Kennedy II is a Public Policy Fellow with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

 

Commentary

House leadership should seize opportunity for ambitious teacher pay proposal

With the delayed release of the House budget proposal, legislative leaders have had ample opportunity to address the many shortfalls of the Senate budget proposal. Ideally, House leadership will take a more responsible approach towards funding future class-size requirements, resisting expansion of unaccountable voucher programs, and the dismantling of the Department of Public Instruction. However, the best opportunity for House leadership to improve upon the Senate budget proposal may involve a more enlightened and ambitious approach towards teacher pay.

According to recently released estimates from the National Education Association, North Carolina’s average teacher pay ranking improved from 41st to 35th. North Carolina’s improved ranking is good news, but the average pay ranking is not very useful for determining what type of pay is needed to attract and retain the best and the brightest into the profession. Instead, policymakers need to look at how North Carolina teacher salaries compare with the salaries of other professionals in North Carolina whose jobs have similar college-level education requirements. Countries with high-performing education systems such as South Korea, Finland, and Singapore offer teacher salaries that are competitive with other professions. By contrast, North Carolina’s teacher salaries are only about 57 to 65 percent of other college graduates in the state. According to this more useful measure of teacher salary competitiveness, North Carolina ranks 49th.

Given the woeful state of teacher salary competitiveness, the primary goal of any House teacher pay proposal should be focusing on increasing teacher salaries across the board. The Senate’s plan would provide teachers average raises just under 3.8 percent. By contrast, Governor Cooper’s budget proposal would provide teachers average raises of 6.2 percent. With additional creativity, House leadership could certainly afford an even more ambitious teacher pay plan. Read more

News

NBA All-Star Game returns to Charlotte over LGBTQ protests

The NBA has announced its 2019 All-Star Game will be held in Charlotte.

This year’s game was held in New Orleans due to the NBA’s opposition to HB2.

But LGBTQ advocate groups Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign are denouncing the decision. The HB2 compromise recently struck by the General Assembly wasn’t a true comprise, the groups said in a statement Wednesday – and corporations and sports groups shouldn’t be rewarding it.

The groups pointed out that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said  event sites, hotels, and businesses involved with the NBA All-Star Game must put in place LGBTQ inclusive non-discrimination policies inclusive of the LGBTQ community. But no such guidelines have yet been put in place by the city or the state.

“We need to see concrete guidelines and policies put in place that will live up to the proposed principles put forward by the NBA designed to protect all of its players and fans,” said Equality NC Interim Executive Director Matt Hirschy in the statement. “As we move forward with the NBA All-Star Game returning to Charlotte, LGBTQ people must be invited to the discussions between the NBA, the city of Charlotte and NCGA leadership to provide input and feedback on how to best protect LGBTQ people.”

“North Carolina’s discriminatory law prohibits the city of Charlotte from implementing non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents and visitors attending the All-Star Game. Nothing has changed that fact,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “It’s critically important that people understand the gravity of this situation, which has had the effect of extending discrimination and endangering LGBTQ people across the state of North Carolina.”

HB 142 is not a true HB2 repeal, the groups said in their statement. Instead it replaces one discriminatory, anti-transgender bathroom bill with another and bans local LGBTQ non-discrimination protections statewide through 2020. It substitutes the previous anti-transgender bathroom provisions with a new provision that forbids state agencies, public universities, primary and secondary schools, and cities from adopting policies ensuring transgender people have access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity, the groups said.

News

N.C. House to roll out its education budget Thursday morning

Key budget writers in the N.C. House of Representatives are expected to roll out their proposals for public education funding early Thursday morning.

The news comes after a top House budget writer told Policy Watch last week that the chamber was likely to announce a spending plan that was considerably kinder to public schools than the budget proposed by Senate lawmakers this month.

Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Republican, is expected to preside over Thursday’s 8:30 a.m. meeting. Last week, Horn said the House budget is more likely to include across-the-board raises for teachers, less severe funding cuts for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the restoration of several early-morning cuts to education projects in Democratic-held districts. 

The Senate’s teacher pay plan included an average 3.7 percent raise, but critics said it slighted beginning and veteran teachers, focusing on mid-career educators instead.

“I think the House has a broader view with regard to teachers,” Horn told Policy Watch. “We recognize that our most experienced teachers have gotten the least reward.”

Criticism for the Senate’s $22.9 billion budget plan mounted shortly after its release two weeks ago. Some pointed to new national rankings from the nonpartisan National Education Association that placed North Carolina at 43rd in the U.S. in per-pupil spending in 2017-2018, a slight drop from the previous year, although the state’s teacher pay ranking had risen from 41st to 35th.

Of course, those rankings were not finalized with the Senate’s budget provisions included.

N.C. Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union

Last week, Horn also questioned a controversial Senate plan to slash DPI funding by 25 percent in the coming year. That’s about a $13.1 million cut for the state’s top K-12 agency in 2017-2018, coming on top of more than $19 million in cuts to DPI since 2009.

Democrats and public school advocates say the cuts will be most apparent in poor and low-performing school districts that need the support and intervention provided by DPI. Meanwhile, a recently-retired DPI finance head told Policy Watch the deep cuts would “totally destroy” the agency’s operations. 

Horn said he doesn’t expect House leadership to go along with such a plan.

“We ask DPI to do a lot,” said Horn. “… We want new curriculum. This year, we asked them to teach about suicide prevention. We want you to include all these things in the curriculum. Somebody has to develop that curriculum.”

Read more