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You know North Carolina has jumped off the cliff into the abyss when even two conservative figures with close ties to the John Locke Foundation are deriding the latest budget and tax policy choices made by state leaders.

Here, for instance, is longtime Locke Foundation Board member Assad Meymandi in Saturday’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer:

“Some 60 years ago, the founding fathers of the new North Carolina – transforming an agrarian society into an educational, technical and industrial state – folks like the late Bill Friday, Archie Davis, Gov. Luther Hodges and others saw the future salvation of our beloved state by heavily investing in education.

Their efforts have produced, among other things, a very strong UNC system of 16 campuses, parallel with the creation of the incomparable network of community colleges. They also advocated a strong N.C. Symphony, N.C. Museum of Art and other cultural and artistic institutions to attract educated and culturally inclined people to the state. Investing in education has paid off. N.C. economy has thrived because of its excellent public universities. UNC-Chapel Hill alone brings in annually around $900 million in research money and grants. It is truly frightening to see what the legislature is doing to the budgets of UNC system, N.C. community college system and UNC-TV. Read More

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In public policy debates it’s common for different organizations to disagree about crunching numbers and examining trends. We often disagree about which states should serve as models for North Carolina. All of that is understandable.

Last week John Hood, president of the John Locke Foundation, decided to change this dynamic in a column distributed by the Insider. In that column, which is mostly about Medicaid, he accuses groups that disagree with him of lying.

Specifically, he says this claim was untrue:

 North Carolinians were told that regardless of whether the state set up its own Obamacare exchange or allowed the federal government to do so, state government would have to fund the exchange’s operating costs. This claim was false.

Since I was in the middle of that discussion I can report on what was actually said in both public and private debates.

When the legislature this year pushed a bill to reject Medicaid expansion they included in the legislation a provision that essentially turned over all responsibility for establishing a health benefits exchange in North Carolina to the federal government. A health exchange, as a reminder, is the online marketplace where people can shop for insurance. Some people, depending on income, will qualify for subsidized coverage when purchasing a policy through the exchange.

Some legislators and conservative activists argued that it would be fiscally irresponsible for North Carolina to set up a state exchange. What we pointed out, along with a few others, is that whether we establish a state, federal, or partnership exchange, the financing doesn’t change. The federal government will pay for establishing the exchange and then it must be self-supporting.

That means North Carolinians must pay for the operations of the North Carolina exchange.

As we also pointed out, if the federal government operates our exchange then it will be financed by an insurer user fee, in effect a premium tax, on North Carolina insurance companies and insurance purchasers. If the state set up its own exchange we could both control its size and pull from more diverse funding streams. We may not want to load the entire cost of the exchange on to premiums.

It is clear what Hood is trying to accomplish in his column. He wants to say that groups like us lied to legislators and the public about funding the exchange. We, therefore, can’t be trusted when it comes to Medicaid. That is irresponsible and it is misleading. And the Insider should be more cautious in distributing such attacks.

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Dan ForestNorth Carolina’s new Lt. Governor, Dan Forest, held forth in a rambling talk at a John Locke Foundation “Shaftsbury Society luncheon” earlier this week and in watching the 41 minute video one gets a real taste of the strange brew of ill-conceived and contradictory policy positions that now dominates on the modern American-Fox News-Tea Partying right.

As is often the case with many of his ideological allies, much of Forest’s talk is friendly and non-threatening. Whether he is lamenting the lousy Internet service he inherited in the Lt. Governor’s mansion or preaching that North Carolina ought to strive to be number one in the nation in K-12 education, Forest gives voice to many noncontroversial positions.

But, of course, as has been well-documented previously, Dan Forest is not just a friendly suburban architect or the semi-polished son of a former congresswoman.  Read More

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RALEIGH – Bowing to new and overwhelming evidence from the scientific community and the powerful impacts of recent catastrophic weather events, North Carolina conservative political leaders announced today that they are willing to accept the reality of sea-level rise, while at the same time proposing a plan to deal with it.

“It does appear  that some coastal tidal patterns have started to shift slightly,” said State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. “And regardless of whether this is the result of direct intervention by the Almighty or, as I believe, over-regulation of offshore drilling which has prevented ocean floors from subsiding to their appropriate levels, it does appear it’s time to act.”

Berger went on to say that he and colleague House Speaker Thom Tillis will introduce legislation during the 2013 session of the General Assembly to be entitled the “Personal Water-Level Mitigation Choice and Responsibility Act.” Under the multi-faceted proposal, individual taxpayers would, among other things, be able to establish tax-free savings accounts in which they would be able to shelter income for future use in dealing with coastal storms and rising seas. Read More

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Well, it’s good to see that the folks on Right Wing Avenue — the folks whose “think tanks” and corporate lobby brigade have had our government under their collective thumb for decades — are at least keeping things in perspective when it comes to the re-election of the President.

Here’s the “Director of Regulatory Studies” at the Locke Foundation in a post entitled “They broke it, we bought it“: Read More