Commentary

The ideologues on the far right may continue to scream for “repeal” of Obamacare, but the evidence continues to pile up that this is simply not something that’s going to happen. That was the analysis delivered by Judy Waxman of the National Women’s Law Center at this morning’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation breakfast in Raleigh. Waxman noted that amendments to the ACA are certainly likely — indeed, she thinks they are essential — but based on decades of experience in Washington and her numerous political and policy contacts around the country, she believes repeal is simply not in the cards.

Waxman’s analysis is consistent with this AP story that ran on several North Carolina news sites this morning. This is from the version that ran in Raleigh’s News & Observer under the headline “GOP governors don’t see ‘Obamacare’ going away”:

Nine Republican governors have expanded Medicaid for low-income people in their states, despite their own misgivings and adamant opposition from conservative legislators. Three more governors are negotiating with the Democratic administration in Washington.

Rather than demanding repeal, the governors generally have sought federal concessions to make their decisions more politically acceptable at home. That approach is in sharp contrast to the anti-Obamacare fervor of their party in Congress.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he doesn’t think there will be a repeal in Washington, even if Republicans win a Senate majority and consolidate their hold on the House in next month’s election.

“That’s not gonna happen,” the Republican governor told The Associated Press during a recent re-election campaign swing.

This take on the situation is consistent with the views expressed recently and repeatedly by the McCrory administration of late that Medicaid expansion in North Carolina under the ACA should and will occur in the near future.

Commentary

Predatory loansIn case you missed it over the weekend, the New York Times ran a thoroughly logical editorial that rightfully called for federal regulation to crack down on the scam artists who sell payday loans and other similar debt traps in numerous states across the country.

As the editorial rightfully notes, it’s all well and good to propose and enact laws like the “Military Lending Act,” which seeks to prevent our military personnel from getting caught up in these rip-offs, but the same logic obviously applies to other vulnerable consumers as well:

“Poor and working-class people across the country are being driven into poverty and default by deceptively packaged, usuriously priced loans. The obvious solution is a national standard for consumer lending. Both the House and Senate have bills pending that would adopt the 36 percent standard for all consumer transactions, including those involving payday loans, mortgages, car loans, credit cards, overdraft loans and so on.”

And while North Carolina has done a better job than many states in protecting its citizenry from the scammers, there’s plenty that comprehensive federal regulation which sets a ceiling on rates would do to benefit us — not the least of which is the way it could cut back on the flood of money spent by the loan industry on buying political influence and corrupting our politics.

The bottom line: What’s good for protecting our service members is good for protecting all consumers. If Congress had even a smidgen of courage, it would enact such legislation ASAP.

 

2015 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

State revenues are coming in $62 million under projection for the first three months of the fiscal year, according to the Fiscal Research Division’s (FRD) new General Fund Revenue Report. This report provides an assessment of revenue collection performance for the state on a quarterly basis and is particularly important considering the state’s inadequate and unsustainable budget (a point that has been fleshed out in this Budget and Tax Center’s blog series). The growing cost of the 2013 tax plan further challenges state lawmakers ability to rebuild what was lost in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

Despite state revenues having not yet fully recovered from the downturn, lawmakers overhauled North Carolina’s tax code last year in a way that significantly reduced state revenue. In its first year of implementation, the tax plan is already costing far more than expected. Fiscal Research Division estimated that in FY2015, the plan would cost $512.8 million—but it is already costing $191 million more than that. By the end of the fiscal year, the revenue shortfall could reach as high as $600 million—for a total cost of the tax plan of more than $1.1 billion—according Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimates using up-to-date taxpayer data (see the chart below).

In other words, the $62 million revenue shortfall in the first quarter of the state’s fiscal year foreshadows what’s to come by the end of the fiscal year, assuming ITEP’s estimates turn out to be accurate. Read More

News

From the coal ash clean-up to the future of fracking, this summer’s short legislative session provided state legislators with numerous opportunities to weigh in on key environmental policies. Now the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters is out with its 2014 Legislative Scorecard, allowing citizens to see how each House and Senate member ranked in making decisions that ‘respect the environment.’

Here’s more from the NCLCV report:

This session began with high hopes and ended with major letdowns. With issues like education and Medicaid dominating the discussions this summer, environmental issues seemed to take a continual backseat at the General Assembly. The environment became more of a bargaining chip than an important issue, and procedural manipulation was a common theme throughout session.

Amendments were killed left and right by substitute amendments; environmental bills were carelessly rushed through the chambers at lightning speed; and provisions passed that actually weaken current environmental and health law.

On a “good” note, some of the worst proposals failed because the House and Senate couldn’t agree on a variety of issues. Unfortunately, the bills that did pass were still bad,and continued to roll back the sound environmental policies that have protected North Carolina for decades.

Partisan polarization in voting on environmental issues reached a new depth during 2014. The score gap between Republican and Democratic averages was 75 points in the House for the combined 2013-14 session, while it was 72 points in the Senate. This carried to a new extreme the alarming shift which began with the advent of new legislative leadership in 2011.

This year’s scorecard also includes a midterm report card for Governor Pat McCrory (see page 14). Click on the image below to read the entire report.

NCLCV-SCORECARD

Commentary

Gay marriage 2So, if the “religious beliefs” of a public official (like, for instance, a register of deeds) cause him or her one to oppose interracial marriage or, say, marriage between heterosexuals who are incapable of procreation, should that public official have the right to decline to issue marriage licenses to such couples?

According to the ironically-named North Carolina Values Coalition, the answer to that question is, by all appearances, “yes.” How else to explain the group’s efforts late last week to “inform” public officials throughout the state that they are free to decline to issue licenses to same-sex couples if to do so would violate “their conscience”?

Happily, the good people at Equality NC are speaking up to refute this nonsensical propaganda. This is from a release the group distributed late last Friday: Read More