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In case you missed it, be sure to check out today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File wherein Chris explains what’s really going on in the latest House budget proposal — part of which was unveiled today after having been written behind closed doors. As Chris notes in “A muddled start to the state budget dance”:

“Overall the parts of the budget made public so far are similar to proposals made by Governor Pat McCrory two months ago in his spending plan with the anemic status quo preserved in most agencies and programs, maintaining funding levels that after several years of deep budget cuts fail to meet the needs of a growing and still struggling state.

House leaders will tout increased funding for education but with a few notable exceptions like more funding for textbooks and restoring support for driver’s ed, most of the new education money will pay to keep services at current levels—funding enrollment increases and keeping the same number of teacher assistants in the classroom after their ranks were reduced significantly in the last few years.

It is much the same in health and human services where House leaders pay for the increased cost of Medicaid and provide some additional funding for programs that desperately need it, like the Home and Community Care Block that helps pay for Meals on Wheels and other services that allow seniors to stay in their homes.

The House budget restores a million dollar cut made to the program last year and while that’s certainly welcome news, bringing a vital program back to a previous level of funding isn’t exactly a cause for massive celebration.”

And sadly, as Chris also notes, this is probably the high point of this year’s budget process: Read More

Commentary

budgetThere were a lot of things that the Democrats did wrong while they were running the North Carolina General Assembly back in the day– especially in the state Senate — and many of them were highlighted at the time on this website. That said, the “process” now in use on Jones Street has degenerated since then to the point at which it truly makes a mockery of democratic governance.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the the development of the single most important bill that the General Assembly passes each year — the state budget. Here’s how this absurd process has worked in 2015:

Two months ago, the Governor proposed a budget. After that, the various Appropriations subcommittees held a few meetings to review what the Governor had proposed.

That’s it. There’s been no public discussion or hearings on developing or exploring alternatives. There’s been no public debate or amendments and certainly no public give and take.

Now, this morning, almost four months into the 2015 legislative session and just 45 days before the end of the fiscal year, the House released a new version of the budget (really just parts of the budget — we still don’t know about taxes and employee raises) broken into a handful of separate proposals. Naturally, there’s been no time for legislators, the news media or the public to digest the contents. The proposals were all brought before hastily called and simultaneous subcommittee meetings this morning — which effectively prohibited any one individual from reviewing any more than one or two small corners of the proposal.

At the meetings, legislators were told they’d have till noon to develop any amendments and were given a long list of 11 onerous rules Read More

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News item from the Charlotte Observer:

“The Fort Mill, S.C., Republican who went public Tuesday with his plea for help paying for sight-saving surgery had raised almost $12,000 by Wednesday evening – most of it from self-described liberals and Affordable Care Act supporters saying they hope he’s learned a lesson.

That’s enough to ensure he can get the treatment he needs, said Dr. Andrew Antoszyk, an eye surgeon with Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Associates. After reading Luis Lang’s story in the Observer on Wednesday, Antoszyk said he’d work with Lang and with Novant Health to give him the care at reduced cost.

Lang, a self-employed handyman, declined to get health insurance until he needed expensive surgery for diabetes-related eye problems. His story went viral, spurring blogs and comments, national media commentary, thousands of social media shares and vigorous discussions across the country.

His GoFundMe.com page has been shared on social media more than 1,700 times since Tuesday morning, with more than 600 people making small donations, often with political commentary.

‘No one should be without medical (care) even if they have not made their own best choices in life,’ wrote Steve Kadel, who gave $10. ‘The party of personal responsibility (has) left you hanging on your own consequences. Progressives like me think that’s just cruel. Be well.’”

Whether Lang or other Affordable Care Act naysayers will learn a lesson is unclear at this point — Lang himself, offers rather muddled comments on the subject later in the Observer article — but a few things are clear from all this:

Read More

Commentary

In case you missed it earlier today, be sure to check out this new and sobering release from the Justice Center on the sorry state of North Carolina’s investment in higher education:

North Carolina’s spending on higher education cut deeply since 2008
Shortchanging public universities and colleges reduces access to higher education, hurts economy

RALEIGH (May 13, 2015) — Even as most states have begun to restore funding for higher education that was cut during the recession, North Carolina has continued to cut funding for public universities, according to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  As a result, tuitions have risen dramatically and the quality of education here has suffered, which will make it harder for the state to attract businesses that rely on a well-educated workforce.

“Smart investments in public colleges and universities will help to strengthen North Carolina’s economy,” said Cedric Johnson of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “Communities with highly educated residents attract employers who pay competitive wages. Their employees then spend money in their community, boosting the economy of the entire area. That’s what North Carolina needs as our economy continues to recover from the damaging Great Recession.”

Nationwide, states are spending 20 percent less per student on higher education than they did in 2008, after adjusting for inflation. With such deep cuts in higher education investment, colleges and universities have had to raise tuition, cut spending, or both. As a result, tuition at four-year public colleges has grown nationally by 29 percent since the 2007-08 school year.

For North Carolina, costly tax cuts in recent years have hindered the state’s ability to invest in what works, such as its well-regarded public university system. State funding for higher education has been cut by more than 20 percent since 2008 when adjusted for inflation, according to the new report. Meanwhile, the average tuition at a public, four-year college increased by 36 percent during this period. Read More

Commentary

5-11-15-NCPW-cartoon1[This post has been updated.] As explained in the post immediately below, the House Rules Committee was scheduled to take up a bill this morning to further liberalize North Carolina gun laws. Late last night, however, the meeting was, thankfully, cancelled. Greensboro News & Record columnist Susan Ladd explains this morning why the bill “is not designed to ‘protect’ or ‘affirm’ citizens’ Second Amendment rights. It is designed to keep expanding those rights beyond the realm of reason.”

Here is Ladd’s handy summary of what the bill would do in its present form:

• If you’re a business owner and don’t like the idea of your customers packing heat, tough beans. Your only option is to place a large sign in a prominent location notifying customers that weapons are prohibited. But like the right of parlay in “Pirates of the Caribbean, this is more like a guideline than a rule, because violating the notice would no longer be a misdemeanor but simply an infraction.

• Schools would be unable to forbid students and teachers from having guns in their locked vehicles on school grounds. I’m sure that long walk to the car and the laborious process of unlocking it would be sufficient to keep a person bent on violence from using a gun on fellow students or teachers.

• Doctors would be forbidden Read More