News

When state lawmakers get ready to tackle Medicaid reform this year, they’ll be working with a new state Medicaid Director.

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos announced Thursday that Robin Gary Cummings will step down from the post in June to become the Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.RichardandCummings2

Dr. Cummings,  who assumed the duties of  North Carolina’s Medicaid director just 13 months ago, said he’s looking forward to changing directions to focus his attention on higher education.

“It’s the highest position I can go home to,” said Cummings. “Serving under the leadership of Secretary Wos as the state’s Medicaid Director has been an honor and one of the most valuable experiences of my career.

“This has given me a better understanding of our citizens’ needs and has prepared me to be an effective leader in my next role as the chancellor of UNC-Pembroke.”

Taking over as the state’s new Medicaid director will be Dave Richard, Deputy Secretary of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Services.

From DHHS’ media advisory:

Richard has extensive experience with the Medicaid program throughout his 33-year career. In his work with The Arc, he was involved in advocacy and policy development related to the Medicaid program at the state and national level. In his tenure as executive director of The Arc of North Carolina, he led The Arc’s effort to become a provider under the Medicaid program and provided leadership for its successful programs.

Since joining DHHS as director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services and in his current role as Deputy Secretary, he has been directly involved with the oversight of the Local Management Entities and Managed Care Organizations (LME-MCO) system, which is responsible for more than $2 billion of Medicaid funding in a managed care delivery system.

Richard will become North Carolina’s third Medicaid director since January of 2013.  Progressive Pulse readers may recall the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) initially brought in Carol Steckel from Louisiana to manage the Medicaid program.

Steckel resigned from the post eight months later to take a position with WellCare Health Plans in Tampa, Florida.

Cummings’ last day on the job is June 5.

Commentary, News

The state House convenes at 10:00am Thursday where members are expected to debate dozens of amendments before voting on their version of the state budget.

On the plus side, the $22.1 billion spending plan includes a two percent pay raise for all teachers, with starting salaries for the state’s newest teachers rising to $35,000 a year. The budget also earmarks $100 million to handle school enrollment growth, which will accommodate an expected 17,000 additional students next year.

But what this budget fails to fund is just as important, according to Amber Moodie-Dyer with the NC Budget & Tax Center.

Moodie-Dyer notes the spending plan fails to restore funding for teaching assistants and underfunds textbooks, while opting instead to reduce the corporate tax rate.

Moodie-Dyer joins us this weekend on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the budget process. For a preview of that radio interview click below:
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The NC Budget & Tax Center is not alone that assessment of the House Budget. The editorial board of Greensboro’s News & Record writes:

…there still aren’t enough investments. North Carolina must restrengthen its universities and community colleges and do more to make sure children are ready for post-secondary education. Quality early childhood learning is still unavailable to many children, and high numbers never get on track in the primary grades.

The $400 million revenue windfall for the current fiscal year gives budget writers some hope that revenues will continue to be strong. They are wisely investing a little more in people, infrastructure and savings.

Yet with more corporate tax cuts coming, it’s questionable whether revenues will continue to grow enough to pay for further needed investments.

It would be better to freeze corporate tax rates and make sure a lush, green spring doesn’t dry up in a summer drought.

Read the full editorial here. For more analysis from the NC Budget & Tax Center on the House plan, click here.

News

In case you missed it, comedian Stephen Colbert delivered both on the punch lines and in his advice to Wake Forest University’s class of 2015.

Colbert told graduates on Monday to find the courage to set their own standards, hold high expectations, and then make the world better.

“Get ready for my generation to tell you everything that can’t be done – like ending racial tension, or getting money out of politics, or lowering the world’s carbon emissions,” explained Colbert. “Your job – Pro Humanitate – is to prove us wrong.”

For a clip from Monday’s speech at Wake Forest, click below. The entire ceremony is available here.
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Colbert, left the “The Colbert Report” in December after nine years on Comedy Central, and will take over the helm of the “Late Show” later this year.

News

The House version of the state budget is now available online and without a doubt that’s top trending story on Jones Street this afternoon. Here are just a few of the highlighted spending priorities:

 

Commentary, News

1. Five things you need to know about the new state revenue “surplus”

Despite the “April surprise,” NC’s fiscal fundamentals remain grim There’s been a great deal of back and forth inside the Raleigh beltline in recent days about the state revenue surplus that state leaders announced last week. To the hardliners on the Right, the fact that state revenues for the current fiscal year [Continue Reading…]

2. The Final Class of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows

Tacey Miller’s dream of becoming a North Carolina Teaching Fellow took hold early in her high school career, when her best friend, who was two years older than Miller, got into to the program. “I was there when she got her acceptance letter, and I got see how the program worked through her,” said Miller, [Continue Reading…]

3. A muddled start to the state budget dance

House leaders began unveiling pieces of their state budget proposal Thursday and as always it was a mixed bag. The budget finally provides more money for textbooks in public schools for example, while at the same time increasing funding for the completely unaccountable school voucher scheme that may be declared unconstitutional by the [Continue Reading…]

4. Emails between Tom Ross, UNC Board of Governors show concern about Ross’ dismissal

Several members of the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors contacted UNC President Tom Ross in the days after he was pushed to resign, relaying their sorrow about what happened, according to emails recently obtained by N.C. Policy Watch. “I have enjoyed getting to know you and consider you to be a [Continue Reading…]

5.Unraveling the coal ash litigation matrix

Editor’s note: Duke Energy entered a guilty plea Thursday, May 14th to misdemeanor violations of the Clean Water Act in connection with coal ash contamination at several of its plants here, agreeing to pay a record $102 million dollar fine. A copy of the plea agreement can be found here. If all goes [Continue Reading…]

*** Bonus video: EPA: Duke’s $102 million penalty should serve as a warning to others that “cut corners”