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This morning’s Greensboro News & Record gets it just about right with an editorial entitled “Just the essentials.”

“The legislature’s ‘short’ session convenes today with one essential purpose: to make adjustments to the second year of the biennial state budget.

There’s other work that needs to be done, and some things that should not be done.

In the first category:

* Pay raises for teachers.

Gov. Pat McCrory outlined his proposal last week. It includes substantial raises in starting salaries and for teachers in the first few years of their careers. More experienced teachers also would see increases. The legislature should flesh out and approve a plan to improve teacher compensation and simultaneously revoke its ill-conceived directive for school systems to designate one-fourth of eligible teachers to receive bonuses if they surrender their tenure rights.

* Stricter coal ash regulation.

The massive spill of coal ash into the Dan River near Eden in February alarmed politicians of both parties who had ignored the issue of safe storage for years. Now is the time to set Duke Energy on a course of corrective action and put in place new regulations to protect water.

* Medicaid expansion.

Last year’s decision to reject federal funding to broaden eligibility left an estimated 300,000 or more residents without health care coverage. The legislature should correct this mistake.

* Preschool enrollment.

The legislature last year directed stronger efforts for schools to make sure children can read by the end of third grade but didn’t grant additional resources to get the job done. One way is to pay for more at-risk 4-year-olds to attend prekindergarten programs.

Now, what the legislature should not do…

Click here to read the rest of the editorial.

Medicaid efficiencyThe wonks at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released an outstanding little report this week about America’s health insurance program for low-income people and some of the biggest myths that have been perpetuated about it.

The overarching message: Despite the far right propaganda, Medicaid remains an efficient and flexible program that dramatically improves the lives of participants, promotes work and is an outstanding deal for states that expand it under the Affordable Care Act.

Read the entire report by clicking here.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for the  inside political scoop on the Medicaid battles and the real reason the right refuses to allow its expansion in states like North Carolina, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman had the answer in yesterday’s New York Times: Read More

Vidant Pungo

Vidant Pungo Hospital
Photo: www.vidanthealth.com

The failure to expand Medicaid appeared to have sealed the fate of Vidant Pungo Hospital in the small town of Belhaven. Now, there appears to be some promising news in the fight to keep services flowing from a hospital that served many lower income North Carolinians. Congrats to our own Adam Linker for his fine work in making this happen. This is from the NAACP:

GREENVILLE, NC -The North Carolina NAACP, the NAACP Branches in Hyde and Beaufort Counties and the leadership of Vidant Health are pleased to announce this morning at 9 am that they have worked out an agreement to keep Vidant Pungo Hospital open.

Vidant Pungo Hospital and its emergency facilities will remain open and operated by Vidant Health through July 1, 2014. Over the next three months, Vidant Health will work with the community to help them establish a representative community-based board that will accept full operating control of the hospital in a transfer by July 1, 2014. Read More

The math is done and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone – NC is losing $4.9 million per day since January 1, 2014 because Governor McCrory and the NC General Assembly refused to expand Medicaid.  This is money  NC taxpayers paid in federal taxes that is now headed to states like Arizona, New York, Arkansas and Nevada where conservative legislators and governors chose to expand coverage for their poorest citizens.  You can embed the counter below on your own page by going here.

(Estimate based on data from the NC Institute of Medicine for 2014-15.)

Pat McCrory 4Maybe it’s the ongoing game of musical chairs in Gov. Pat McCrory’s communications staff or maybe it’s just the man himself, but whatever it is, the Governor’s public pronouncements continue to be peppered with admissions and allegations that bespeak a remarkable degree of obliviousness to the facts and the implications of his administration’s policies.

Yesterday morning’s announcement on raising teacher pay for new teachers featured a classic example. As the Governor began his remarks on his proposal and attempted to lay out the groundwork for it, he made the following rather amazing (and, one has to note, grammatically-challenged) admission:

“Today sadly, the starting teacher pay in North Carolina makes only $30,800. You know, that’s not even enough to raise a family or to pay off student loans, which this new generation of teachers are having to borrow money to go to college at this point in time. How do we expect someone to pay back that loan at that starting salary?”

While the Guv deserves an “attaboy” for making such a statement (yes, teachers make too little and government should do something about it!) he deserves nothing but a big “what the heck?!” for the stunning hypocrisy and lack of awareness it shows with respect to so many of his other policies. Read More