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Attend any legislative meeting at the NC General Assembly related to immigration or documentation of identity and you’ll likely find James Johnson in the front row, shoulder to shoulder with Ron Woodard of NC LISTEN and/or William Gheen of ALIPAC. Johnson, an advocate of Arizona style immigration controls, is President/Founder of North Carolinians For Immigration Reform & Enforcement (NCFIRE). Described variously as a non-profit organization, accepting tax deductible donations, and specifically as a 501(c)3 organization*, NCFIRE is curiously MIA when it comes to documentation of its own identity.
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Falling Behind in NC

As the Budget and Tax Center has written elsewhere, the legislative targets sent to each subcommittee on appropriations represent the single largest year-to-year decline in nearly 30 years.  This week we have seen the impacts of these targets line item-by-line item.

But what do these cuts mean for the state’s ability to meet the needs of North Carolina’s growing and changing population?

Addressing this shortfall with cuts alone and no consideration of revenue will fail to support North Carolina’s nascent economic recovery.  The resulting shortfall of services will translate into very real challenges for North Carolina families and communities.  It will also reduce the state’s ability to meet key long-term promises, like educating our children for the jobs of the future and ensuring health and economic opportunity for all North Carolina communities.

Below are some details from the latest House Budget recommendations that contrast the decline in state appropriations since the Great Recession with the growth in the affected population.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  North Carolina policymakers can eliminate tax breaks and raise reform-minded revenue to close the budget gap, meeting the demand for services across the state.  North Carolinians should call for more responsible, bolder leadership.

Sources: NC DPI, Data Reports & Statistics, Facts and Figures; NC Office of State Budget and Management, Post-Legislative Reports; House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, FY2011-13 Subcommittee Recommendations

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Facing at least an $800 million shortfall, legislators are already talking about what won’t get funded this year. Teacher pay raises and a bonus to reimburse state employees for last year’s furlough were among the first items to get nixed by Senate leadership.

Rep. Susan Fisher, one of the vice chairs on the House Appropriations Committee, says it’s all about funding effective programs and trying to minimize harm to others this session.

The Buncombe County Democrat is among the guests this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. For a preview of our interview with Rep. Fisher, please click below:

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If creating commissions with long fancy titles were solving the greenhouse gas problems, North Carolina might lead the nation.

At last count, at least three boards are charged with identifying ways the state can reduce carbon emissions and thrive in the emerging green economy.

When one of those panels—the Legislative Global Climate Change Commission – met this week it learned that as North Carolina studies, other states are leading with innovative solutions.

Maryland has set a goal of reducing green house emissions 25 percent in a decade, and has a package of policies to get them there. In Arizona, lawmakers set the state on course to cut heat-trapping gases 50 percent below 2000 levels by 2040. New energy standards in Minnesota has that state moving toward reducing emissions 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

In each of those cases, it took similarly charged panels less than a year to recommend a goal and policies to achieve it. The North Carolina commission has been meeting for three years and counting.

There’s no reason North Carolina can’t reduce green house gases 80 percent by 2050. It would require some sacrifice, but the costs of delay – in lost jobs, infrastructure destruction and weather-related human casualties — are much greater.

So here’s an idea: Instead of another commission debate on whether the climate is changing, let’s start dealing with it.

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The North Carolina Housing Coalition gave Susan Fisher, a state representative from Asheville, its Legislator of the Year Award.

The choice of Fisher marks a change in some of the gospel within housing circles.  Fisher has championed the reform of our state’s manufactured housing. The underlying principal of her aims should make sense to other “housers“, as manufactured housing provides shelter for the least well off in the state – families earning less than half of median family income.

Still, it is a new direction. Advocates from both inside and outside of North Carolina have resisted seeing the light on manufactured housing for years.

Fisher sponsored and helped to pass H1700, “Prevent Displacement of Manufactured Homes,” which gives park owners a tax incentive to sell their mobile home parks to resident groups.  It covers sales to non-profit groups, or even to resident-owned cooperatives.

Chris Estes, the Housing Coalition’s Executive Director, framed Fisher’s work within broader concerns to address our manufactured housing. “Mobile homes house 18 percent of the North Carolina residents. They are on the largest source of non-subsidized affordable housing in the state,” he added. These days, the sector makes  one-third of all housing starts in North Carolina.

Fisher accepted the award but acknowledged that more can be done.  She emphasized how it fit within goals for  homeownership. Perhaps she was reaching out to state leaders attending the Summit.  Sen. Joe Sam Queen, who arrived later and reiterated several longstanding critiques of manufactured housing, but remains dedicated to increasing homeownership.