Commentary

Kudos to citizen journalist Greg Flynn for pointing out on Twitter today the recent and outrageous appointment of Rowan County businessman and former Housing Board Chairman Mac Butner to the Rowan County Board of Elections. As Flynn reported this morning, Butner said the following on Facebook in 2013:

Butner-post

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The post still appears on Butner’s Facebook page. The national political site Wonkette reported last July (caution: the website uses language some may find offensive) that Butner has made other hateful statements on Facebook — including racially charged comments about Moral Monday protesters — that were later taken down. The Salisbury Post has more on those comments in this story from last summer.

According to an article from last Friday in the Post, Butner was selected for his new job by local GOP officials and approved by the state Board of Elections (the members of which, of course, report to Gov. McCrory). Two weeks ago, McCrory helped force the resignation of state Board member Paul Foley because of some ethical issues. In the present case, it’s hard to see how he can avoid taking similar action.

News

Retiree-benefotsLegislative staff pitched a policy solution to lawmakers on Monday that could reduce the state’s $25.5 billion unfunded liability associated with the Retiree Health Benefit Fund by 11.8 percent, producing a larger cost savings than the Senate’s proposal to eliminate retiree health benefits for all teachers and state employees hired after January 1, 2016.

The fix? Shift some of the costs associated with providing fully funded retiree health plans to the federal government. Going that route would require all retirees to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans—and by doing so, retirees shouldn’t be expected to bear more out-of-pocket expenses and the state would save $64 million annually, reducing the total unfunded liability by about $3 billion.

The Senate, on the other hand, wants to address the unfunded liability by eliminating retiree health benefits for new hires beginning in 2016. Some say this option will unfairly shift more costs to the worker and could hurt recruitment efforts, while producing an estimated smaller cost savings of 10 percent as opposed to the 11.8 percent that would come with enrolling retirees into Medicare Advantage plans.

For the full story, head on over to our main site. And you can read the legislative report below.

Commentary, News

Governor Pat McCrory’s Transportation Secretary caught many in the state government world by surprise Tuesday with the announcement that he would leave the office immediately.

A press release from the governor’s office explained Tony Tata’s departure this way:

…Tony Tata has resigned as Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) to focus on personal and family matters in addition to pursuing his passion as an author.

“Tony Tata has been a valuable partner in our efforts to reform and modernize North Carolina’s transportation system,” Governor McCrory said. “His dedication to the people of North Carolina is in keeping with his long career of service to his community, state and country.”

Tata’s resignation takes effect today. Chief Deputy Secretary Nick Tennyson will serve as Acting Transportation Secretary.

Tata has been one of the more visible members in the McCrory administration, most recently traveling the state with the governor to promote the Connect NC bond proposal.

NCDOT Sec. Tony Tata and Governor Pat McCrory discuss Connect NC bond proposal in late June at Hammocks Beach.  (Photo: Governor's flickr account.)

NCDOT Sec. Tony Tata and Governor Pat McCrory discuss the Connect NC bond proposal in late June at Hammocks Beach. (Photo: Governor’s flickr account.)

Here’s what others on social media are saying about Tata’s departure:

Commentary
fulton forde - boulted bread

Fulton Forde (photo by Ana Pardo).

As a follow up to National #WageWeek, the Progressive Pulse is highlighting the work of local business leaders who are raising the wage floor for their employees. This blog post is the second in that series, and represents an interview with bakery owner Fulton Forde.

Forde and his partners Sam Kirkpatrick and Josh Bellamy own Boulted Bread, a small, 9-employee bakery in South Raleigh which opened a formal store front a year ago this week. The wage floor for Boulted Bread employees has been set at $10.50/hr since the business began.

Q: How did you make the decision to set your wage floor above the minimum?

A: We made the decision with our first hire, Meg. We talked a lot about a living wage, and it’s something I always had on my mind. Morality is a big part of the business – be it from sourcing, or process, every part – so we wanted the way we treat our employees to be in line with the products that we’re trying to sell. Coming up with a wage floor significantly over minimum was [important to] fitting the moral structure of the business.

Q: What benefits do you see as a business owner from having a higher base wage?

A: We want everyone to feel like they’re a part of the business, not just an employee. When the business benefits, we want [our employees] to benefit. So everyone who works here sees that we’re a little busier every week, and everyone’s wage is going up. We also want everyone to see that this is more than a job you have for a few months or a year. We’re here every day and we’re doing the same things. It’s simple work, but for us it’s tied to a whole lifestyle that we want and the morals of the business. Even in our first year we’ve been sure to take a couple of weeks off, and we’re moving forward with benefits in general. We want people to feel involved, receive the benefit of the [success of] the business and feel like this can be a long-term opportunity for them. We don’t have anyone who looks like they’re going to be, you know, escaping. When you start people off with that reciprocal respect, they’re willing to do more, and it’s easier to pay them more from there, because they have more responsibilities all the time. It leads to everyone representing the business well when they’re here, and when they’re not here, and ultimately greater success for everyone.

Q: How do you see your higher wage floor impacting your business in the long-run?

A: We started off having three owners, and we’re all really heavily involved. It’s all about dispersing the responsibility. That’s definitely one of our end-goals, having responsible employees who are capable of taking on some of the burden [of running the business]. There are so many people that I see really struggling, that really have a super-difficult life. Our employees are not; we’ve really taken steps to make [working here] livable. In the future, we plan to continue to increase pay, and we’re also working on some benefits like paid time off, simple IRA matching, possibly health insurance.

I think every business owner needs more free time even at their own business to create new things or research their product or service and see how they can make it better. So even if you’re addicted to work and want to be at work all the time, free time at work is really powerful, and can easily turn into more profitability if that’s what you’re after. We still work a lot, but now we have more time to really investigate things like better sourcing, better products. It wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have employees who we trusted, who worked hard and were rewarded.

This interview has been edited for length.

Commentary
Image: www.thinkprogress.org

Image: www.thinkprogress.org

A new media release from colleagues at the NC Justice Center:

New report says quality caregiver wages are critical for quality care given to seniors
Fair wages for home care workers improve continuity of care and strengthen the local economy

Low wages for caregivers threaten the quality and consistency of in-home healthcare services provided to seniors, even as demand those services is expected grow exponentially due to the retirement of the baby boom generation according to a report released today. Recent cuts to the Medicaid reimbursement rate for caregiving have contributed to falling caregiver wages and must be addressed in order to ensure seniors receive quality care.

“Direct care occupations, including home care jobs, are some of the fastest growing occupations. But these jobs offer some of the lowest wages in the state,” writes Sabine Schoenbach, author of the report. “Low wages increase worker turnover, increase long-run costs for providers, and interrupt the continuity of care for consumers. Reimbursement by Medicaid programs, in large part, creates the framework in which employers set wages for direct care workers, and North Carolina’s reimbursement rates have been frozen or reduced since 2009 putting North Carolina $4 per hour lower than the national average rate paid to provider agencies.”

Key findings include:

  • North Carolina is rapidly aging – the population over 65 is projected to more than double by 2050. The aging of the state’s baby boomers will correspond with an increase in community members with functional and cognitive limitations, indicating a growing need for direct care that allows community members to continue to live with dignity.
  • Direct care occupations, including home care jobs, are some of the fastest growing occupations, as North Carolina rapidly ages. Read More