Commentary

In one of the myriad unexplained “special provisions” buried deep in the its version of the 2016-17 budget, the North Carolina Senate takes the remarkable and destructive step of repealing the state Fair Housing Act. As Sarah Ovaska-Few reported last week:

“The provision, which would repeal the State Fair Housing Act and shut down the state office that investigates discrimination complaints, was buried deep in the 500-plus budget (pages 390-391) that was made public and quickly passed the chamber last week.

The elimination of the state anti-discrimination measures got no attention during debates when the budget passed the Republican-controlled Senate last Thursday.

The move to repeal the state’s Fair Housing Act would also eliminate the N.C. Human Relations Commission, which is funded partly with federal funds and tasked with investigating and pursuing legal claims of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or disability when it comes to housing, employment and civil rights violations.”

One can only hope that this outrageous provision gets deep-sixed in the negotiations over the final budget. And if conferees need any reminders about the continued relevance of fair housing laws in 2015 North Carolina, they might want to check out yesterday’s announcement from the good folks at Legal Aid of North Carolina detailing the terms of a settlement in a fair housing case involving demands of sex for receipt of housing vouchers brought in Scotland County.

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Commentary

Editorial writers have penned several good ones across North Carolina in recent days.

This morning’s Winston-Salem Journal is on the mark when it reminds the state Senate that driver’s education should remain in the public schools. As the editorial notes: “It’s not just a matter of money, but of public safety.”

In an editorial entitled “There’s a better way than political gerrymandering,” the Fayetteville Observer says this:

“In one of its final decisions before ending its term this week, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s use of an independent commission to draw congressional districts.

We hope the leaders of the N.C. Senate took note. The decision gives them one less reason to resist a bipartisan initiative to create a redistricting commission here.”

An editorial in Raleigh’s N&O comments on native daughter Loretta Lynch’s return to the state yesterday by noting her sterling qualifications to be the nation’s new Attorney General and blasting the GOP Senators who filibustered her nomination:

“Disgracefully, both of North Carolina’s Republican U.S. senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, opposed Lynch’s nomination on thin and blatantly partisan grounds. They embarrassed themselves more than they did Lynch, and Tillis as a freshman failed the political character test.”

The Charlotte Observer expounds thoughtfully on “Three more Supreme Court decisions that could – and should – have an impact on North Carolina.”

And, finally, in case you missed it, a Tuesday editorial in the Asheville Citizen-Times gets it right with this take on the Affordable Care Act:

“The Affordable Care Act is here to stay. It’s time for critics to stop trying to repeal it and start trying to improve it.

The Supreme Court put the final nail in the repeal-ACA coffin last week when it upheld health-care subsidies in states that have not set up their own insurance exchanges. By a 6-3 vote the justices recognized a drafting error for what it was and rejected the notion that Congress would have deliberately written a law to guarantee it would not work….

The ACA is not perfect. The unwieldy law is too complicated for many Americans and it faced an embarrassingly rocky rollout as thousands were unable to access the website. Its effect on the labor force is yet to be fully ascertained, but there’s always the threat of reduced employee hours and a smaller workforce if people don’t need a job for benefits.

We’re all up for discussing ways to improve the ACA. But the opposition is going to have to bring concrete solutions to the table to build off of the plan instead of continuing to face a fruitless battle to tear it down.”

Commentary

Researchers Lawrence Mishel and Alyssa Davis at the Economic Policy Institute released some pretty amazing new numbers today on the growth in American CEO pay over the last few decades:

“Over the last several decades, inflation-adjusted CEO compensation increased from $1.5 million in 1978 to $16.3 million in 2014, or 997 percent, a rise almost double stock market growth. Over the same time period, a typical worker’s wages grew very little: the annual compensation, adjusted for inflation, of the average private-sector production and nonsupervisory worker (comprising 82 percent of total payroll employment) rose from $48,000 in 1978 to just $53,200 in 2014, an increase of only 10.9 percent. Due to this unequal growth, average top CEOs now make over 300 times what typical workers earn.

Although corporations are posting record-high profits and the stock market is booming, the wages of most workers remain stagnant, indicating they are not participating equally in prosperity. Meanwhile, CEO compensation continues to rise even faster than the stock market.

In order to curtail the growth of CEO pay, we need to implement higher marginal income tax rates and promote rules such as “say on pay.” At the same time, we need to implement an agenda that promotes broad-based wage growth so typical workers can share more widely in our economic growth.”

Ah…the genius of the free market.

Click here to see their data in the form of some powerful graphics.

Commentary

New from our colleagues at the Budget and Tax Center:

Much of North Carolina has still not recovered from the Great Recession, according to the latest employment data for May.

Roughly two-thirds of North Carolina’s counties have fewer people working today than before the recession, and almost a quarter of the counties in North Carolina saw employment decline since May of 2014, a distressing sign given that it comes amidst generally strong national growth.

“The picture in many small towns and rural communities is not good,” said Patrick McHugh, Economic Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “Even in some cities that are largely seen as doing better, wages have not kept up with inflation over the last seven years.”

Notable data from the labor market release include:

  • 88 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have more people looking for work today than before the Great Recession.
  • 64 of North Carolina’s 100 counties have not gotten back to pre-recession levels of employment.
  • 14 of North Carolina’s 15 metropolitan areas still have more people looking for work than before the recession.
  • Adjusting for inflation, only metropolitan areas (Charlotte, Durham-Chapel Hill, Greenville, New Bern, and Wilmington) have seen better than 4 percent growth in wages over the last year.
  • Wages have not kept up with inflation in eight of North Carolina’s 15 metropolitan areas.

“The current period of economic growth is not creating enough jobs in many communities and most workers are not seeing their paychecks grow,” McHugh said. “We’re doing better than a few years ago, but this economy still isn’t working for a lot of working North Carolina.”

The Budget and Tax Center provides summaries of each county’s current labor market data, and how each county has fared since the start of the recession.

Commentary

In case you missed it, an editorial in this morning’s Fayetteville Observer rightfully blasted the state Senate’s latest outrageous effort to gut state environmental regulations:

Some cynics are calling it the “Off-The-Wall Act of 2015.” Others suggest a better title might be the “Polluter Protection Act.”

In both cases they’re right. And what happened to House Bill 765 last weekend is a textbook chapter in how North Carolina lawmakers regularly commit outrages under cover of darkness.

Please note that we are not making a partisan statement here. For years, Democrats sparked Republican howls when they slipped through Trojan horse legislation that completely changed the purpose and effect of a bill. The howling traded sides when Republicans took over the General Assembly and quickly adopted time-tested Democratic dirty tricks.

House Bill 765 was, until recently, a one-page bill regulating the transportation of gravel. Last weekend, in the Senate, it became a 54-page epic that deregulated everything from profanity on public highways to the minimum age for operating all-terrain vehicles.

The bill is particularly pernicious in giving a greener light to polluters. It unprotects some wetlands, weakens stormwater regulations, removes air-quality monitors across the state and eliminates a requirement for recycling computers and televisions.

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.