News

Three weeks in to the new fiscal year and House and Senate leaders appear to be no closer to announcing a final budget compromise.

NCAE Vice President Mark Jewell says the lack of a deal and the quickly approaching new school year has educators feeling especially nervous.

“It’s a lot of pressure, in fact I’ve talked to superintendents across the state over the last couple weeks and they are very concerned,” explained Jewell.

Of particular concern is the teaching assistants, who are helping get classrooms ready for the returning students this summer, but may find themselves out of a job in a few short weeks.

Burke County Public Schools recently announced 24 teacher assistants could expect pink slips if state funding is reduced in the new budget.

Jewell talked about the problems of budget procrastination over the weekend on NC Policy Watch’s News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. Click below for an excerpt from that interview, or here for the full podcast.

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Commentary

It’s an admittedly crowded field of competitors, but by any fair assessment, the Koch Brother-funded group, Americans for Prosperity North Carolina may just have posted its most dishonest and ridiculous claim yet about renewable energy. As you can see in the tweet below and by following the link it contains, the group claims that North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (a modest law that moves the state in the direction of producing more sustainable energy and that will actually save consumers lots of money over time) “strangles” the “entire North Carolina economy.”

This is, simply put, a blatant and outrageous lie. Even if one conceded that the REPS somehow raises consumer electric bills in any significant way — something that is simply not true — North Carolina’s electric rates are currently below the national average.  This is true in all categories — residential, commercial industrial, transportation and overall.  Heck, North Carolina residential consumers pay less for electricity than Texans! North Carolina commercial and industrial consumers pay less than West Virginia businesses! Click here to review the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. How could such rates be “strangling” the economy?

The bottom line: It’s no surprise that fossil fuel barons like the Kochs would put their paid mouthpieces to work to promote policies that pad their gigantic profits, but when the lies get this big, they really need to be called out. Let’s hope this dishonest effort to undermine renewables continues to fall flat.

Commentary

This is the latest in a series of “Wage Week” posts that we are featuring on The Progressive Pulse to highlight efforts to raise the abysmally low and inadequate federal minimum wage. Follow the discussion on Twitter at #WageWeek

By Vicki Meath, Executive Director of Just Economics

As we approach the sixth anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was raised the is Friday, we recognize the need to continue to raise the wage floor. A higher wage floor means more low and middle income workers are participating in sustainable economic activity, keeping money circulating in the local economy. It also means that more full time workers can put a roof over their head and food on their table without outside support. When the wage floor rises to a level where more workers can meet their basic needs, we experience a variety of economic benefits, but also we demonstrate that as a community, we value workers and an economy that works for all.

We are taking time this week to celebrate Wage Week and the hard work of individuals, business leaders, unions, organizations, and elected leaders who contribute to a more just and sustainable economy. While the public narrative often identifies some of these entities as adversaries, we honor the variety of strategies used to stand together on the side of economic justice.

Across the nation we have seen so many recent victories in the effort to raise the wage floor. In Seattle, community advocates worked with elected leaders to pass a bold city wide minimum wage policy. Thanks to the hard work of SEIU, homecare workers in Massachusetts won the fight for a $15/hr wage floor. From brave workers involved in the Fight for 15 to a wealthy venture capitalist, the New York Labor Department’s Wage Board heard testimony last month in support of a higher wage floor for fast food workers and the Board unanimously backed a wage raise proposal.

Here in North Carolina, our state law presents challenges to raising the wage floor at a local level but we continue to find creative strategies to raise wages and build a more sustainable economy. Just Economics, a small nonprofit in Western North Carolina, has the largest Living Wage Certification program in the country and helped develop a replicable model. The Durham Living Wage Project launched a similar program this past spring, identifying businesses voluntarily paying a living wage. The Moral Monday movement initiated by HKonJ and the NC NAACP mobilizes individuals across the state to push for an agenda that includes living wages as major piece of a system that provides equal opportunity for all North Carolinians. Despite the challenges, individuals and organizations across the state are making a difference.

Sometimes the work of justice can seem overwhelming. This week, let us look around, remember the value in this work, recognize our allies, and push forward. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are still winning.

News
Graffiti on Confederate Women's Monument in downtown Raleigh (photo by Sarah Ovaska-Few).

Graffiti on Confederate Women’s Monument in downtown Raleigh (photo by Sarah Ovaska-Few).

The words “Black Lives Matter” were spray-painted on a Confederate monument on the State Capitol grounds overnight,

The Confederate Women’s Monument is downtown Raleigh is one of two Confederate monuments on the capitol grounds in downtown Raleigh, where Gov. Pat McCrory has his office.

Workers had begun trying to remove the “Black Lives Matter” graffiti off of the monument Tuesday morning.

Tuesday’s actions comes as the state House of Representatives will finish debating a bill today that would make it more difficult for local communities to remove Confederate monuments from public property. Any removals would have to be approved by the state legislature.

McCrory has also said he wants the legislature to pass a law preventing the distribution of “Sons of Confederate Veterans” state license plates adorned with the Confederate battle flag. Republican state Sen. Phil Berger has said McCrory has the power to stop issuing the plates on his own, and does not need the legislature’s permission.

Meanwhile, demand last month for the Confederate flag license plates depleted the state’s existing stock, and the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, which is under McCrory’s purview, is in the process of having more produced.

Workers try to remove "Black Lives Matter" graffiti on Confederate monument.

Workers try to remove “Black Lives Matter” graffiti on Confederate monument.

Commentary

Pat McCrory 4The scathing assessments of Gov. Pat McCrory’s job performance continue to multiply — and, no, this is not a reference to Sen. Tom Apodaca’s observation that “the Governor doesn’t play much of a role in anything.”

The new take-down comes from the editorial board of the Winston-Salem Journal, which blasts the Guv this morning over his performance in the Paul Foley affair:

“The Associated Press reported late last week that ‘the chief legal counsel for Gov. Pat McCrory knew almost a year ago that Paul Foley’s law firm had received more than $1.3 million in payments [for legal work] from the target of an investigation into questionable political donations. However, Bob Stephens didn’t say anything to McCrory about the potential conflict of interest or other issues with Foley, a Winston-Salem lawyer … McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said.’

This wasn’t Stephens’ first problem as chief counsel. McCrory and Stephens owe us all a full accounting of this latest one. As The Charlotte Observer said in an editorial Sunday, McCrory ‘should either stop throwing [Stephens] under a bus, or he should dismiss Stephens for poor judgment and incompetence.’”

As the Journal goes on to point out, the public deserves a much more thorough explanation:

“What does trouble us is fact that the governor acted far too late on the Foley issue. McCrory and Stephens both work for us. They both us owe us a full accounting of what they knew and when they knew it.

Perception is everything in politics, and, most important, public trust. Good leaders respond quickly to problems of perception to retain the public trust. Gov. McCrory responded far too late to the conflict of interest in this case.”

Sadly, given his past performance in so many other areas, one has to seriously wonder whether the Governor is actually capable of providing a coherent and convincing explanation of what the heck actually happened. Read the entire editorial by clicking here.