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This morning’s Greensboro News & Record lets the Tea Party wing of the General Assembly (and Rep. Bert Jones in particular) have it this morning. In an editorial entitled “April Foolishness,” the N&R juxtaposes the convention champions’ supposed fondness for limits on power with the General Assembly’s recent attacks on local government:

We thought the state legislature convened in Raleigh.

Last week, it apparently met in Fantasy Land.

How else to explain the House Judiciary I committee debating for an hour whether North Carolina should join the call for a “Convention of the States” to discuss amendments to the U.S. Constitution that would limit the federal government’s power?

“I think there is a wide agreement among Americans that we need to place some constraints on the federal government,” said Rep. Bert Jones, the Reidsville Republican who sponsored House Bill 321, one of two bills calling for such a convention. “Are we going to depend on Congress to say, ‘It’s time to limit ourselves’?”

The convention would reconsider amendments involving term limits for Congress, fiscal restraints and limits on “the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.” “I look at this as an intervention of the states, just as if you have a drug-addled family member,” Jones said, sounding proud as punch.

That’s rich. Even as state lawmakers overreach with constant meddling into the affairs of cities and counties — changing the makeup of local boards and councils, including Greensboro’s, and making partisan power grabs for airports and water authorities — the political pot has the gall to call the kettle black and grouse about “federal overreach.”

Read the rest of the editorial by clicking here. Would that lawmakers had before passing their outrageous assault on voters in Wake County.

Commentary

Mooresville writer John Deem has a rock-anthem-inspired take this morning on the proposals in the General Assembly to shift sales tax revenues from urban to rural areas of the state:

Sales tax redistribution: Money for nothing and your trips for free

By John Deem

Nearly all of the debate over Republican legislators’ proposals for redistributing sales taxes has focused on fairness.

Is “point of sale” distribution unfair to rural counties whose residents spend money in urban areas but whose communities get none of the local sales tax collected on those purchases?

Is the notion of suddenly shifting millions of dollars in revenue unfair to the urban areas that must cut services, raise taxes, or both, to make up for unexpected shortfalls?

As is often the case when politicians create a solution then look for a problem, the local sales tax fairness doctrine misses the point completely.

Rural residents travel to urban areas to spend money because that’s where the businesses are. Those businesses are in urban areas because that’s where the people are. Lots of them.

It costs money to build and maintain roads, water and sewer systems, and other infrastructure to accommodate not just residents, but also the throngs of workers, shoppers, sports fans and others outsiders drawn to an urban area’s employers, stores and attractions. So does providing adequate levels of police, fire and emergency medical services not just for the local citizenry, but for the visitors taking advantage of everything the big city has to offer (and that their own communities do not).

Local governments in urban areas outspend rural communities on a per capita basis not because they can, but because they have no choice. Large populations create unique challenges that can’t be addressed through “equal” funding, which can be a puzzling concept for some elected officials who rest on the simplicity of ideology rather than the complexity of reality.

The fact is, residents of rural communities already get the best of both worlds. They have access to urban amenities, usually within a reasonable drive, but have to deal with few, if any, of the challenges urban communities must wrangle with every day. Meeting those urban challenges costs money – money rural communities don’t have to spend and, therefore, should not siphon from their big city neighbors.

That’s only fair.

Commentary

Medicaid expansionIn case you missed it, the best editorial of the weekend dealt with the most important failure of North Carolina’s political leadership in recent years. The essay in Raleigh’s News & Observer was entitled:

NC losing funding and savings with Medicaid holdout: By balking on Medicaid expansion, N.C. forgoes billions of dollars and a chance to cut costs.”

As the editorial noted:

“In medicine, the small things can matter most. And it is the neglect of the small things that can lead to the biggest costs.

That’s why preventative care is so important and early intervention so significant. And that’s why North Carolina’s stubborn refusal to expand Medicaid is so wildly irresponsible and hugely expensive. As a result of its intransigence, the Republican-led General Assembly is struggling to find tax revenue on one end and turning away billions of dollars on the other.”

The piece goes on to explain how North Carolina’s award-winning nonprofit Medicaid manager, Community Care NC, is saving millions upon millions of dollars and thousands of lives already and to lament the toll in both categories that is being taken by the state leadership’s pigheaded refusal to close the Medicaid gap for hundreds of thousands of lower-income, working people. It also cites report which holds up the astounding amount in federal funds the state is foregoing:

“The report estimates that forgoing federal Medicaid expansion from 2013 to 2022 will cost North Carolina $39.6 billion. In addition, the state’s hospitals will lose out on $11.3 billion in federal funds intended to offset cuts in their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements as required under the Affordable Care Act, which anticipated that all states would expand Medicaid.

That’s more than $50 billion in federal funding forgone over 10 years. Meanwhile, the state would have to spend about $3 billion for its share of expansion. That is a mindboggling deal to refuse so that conservatives can express their pique over ‘Obamacare.’

Republican leaders say they’re worried about being saddled with a higher entitlement cost if the federal government reneges on its promise to pay its full share, but the design and history of Medicaid do does not support that concern. Meanwhile, there are billions of reasons to expand Medicaid now.”

Amen. Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

There are now two Crucial Conversation luncheons you want to miss on the schedule for April:

#1: “Can this coastline be saved? Offshore drilling and what it will likely mean for North Carolina’s beaches and wetlands. “  The event will feature one of the state’s leading experts on the topic, Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Sierra Weaver.

When: Tuesday, April 7, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Center for Community Leadership Training Room at the Junior League of Raleigh Building, 711 Hillsborough St. (At the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s streets)

Click here to register

#2: “What’s the matter with Kansas (and what can North Carolina do to avoid it)?” This event will feature former Kansas lawmaker and state Budget Director Duane Goosen and Annie McKay, Executive Director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth.

When: Tuesday, April 21, at noon — Box lunches will be available at 11:45 a.m.

Where: Marbles Kids Museum, 201 E. Hargett St. (corner of Hargett and Blount streets) in downtown Raleigh

Click here to register

Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or rob@ncpolicywatch.com

Commentary

Spencer Nelson, a senior at UNC Chapel Hill and Chair of the Renewable Energy Committee in Student Government, recently authored the following essay highlighting some hopeful news on the renewable energy front:

Solar powerWin-win legislation would promote solar energy through market forces
By Spencer Nelson

Both business interests and environmental advocates are enthusiastic about two bills currently making their way through the North Carolina General Assembly that would help to sustain the growth of the state’s clean energy industry and provide more energy options to North Carolinians.

House Bill 245, “The Energy Freedom Act,” would allow the purchase of electricity from sources other than the local public utility, beginning the process of electricity deregulation in North Carolina. Currently, North Carolina is one of only five states that still have a complete ban on “third party sales” and it’s holding back the growth of renewables.

Third party sales simplify and reduce the price of renewable energy, especially solar. Residents or companies that want to buy solar energy enter a purchase agreement with a solar company like SolarCity. The solar company owns the panels and takes care of financing, while the consumer pays a monthly fee for energy from the solar panels. This bill allows cheap renewable energy without consumers worrying about taking out loans to buy panels or performing maintenance on their system, leaving the tricky aspects of solar energy to professionals.

In addition to helping North Carolina solar consumers, the Energy Freedom Act would have many positive effects on the economy. Read More