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It’s only Tuesday but another week of obstruction and political hostage-taking by American conservatives is well underway. As I noted in last Wednesday’s Weekly Briefing column on the far right’s nullification/secession movement, however, there’s a heck of a lot more than just the Affordable Care Act these folks want to repeal. Ari Berman at The Nation has more on this subject in a new article published online today.

And speaking of obstructionism, conservatives in the U.S. Senate continue to block numerous qualified individuals from even receiving up or down votes on their nominations by the President – whether it’s half-year long blockade on Congressman Mel Watt’s nomination to serve as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency , Richard Burr’s stonewalling of Jennifer May-Parker’s nomination to serve as a federal judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina or the ongoing filibuster to prevent three highly-qualified Obama nominees from serving on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.  Happily, Senate Majority Leader Reid has filed a cloture petition on the filibuster of D.C. Circuit nominee Patricia Millett. Let’s hope it works.  

And speaking of maddening delays of the kind that would make cable providers proud, Read More

North Carolina’s transportation system helps form vital social and economic structures by connecting people to services, jobs, and other opportunities across the state and beyond. Although North Carolina has been known as the Good Roads State, its transportation system is under considerable pressure due to aging infrastructure, increasing demand, and declining revenue sources that are failing to keep pace with rising costs to maintain and improve the system.

Just last August, the North Carolina Department of Transportation confirmed that there is a large and growing gap between transportation needs and funding. They released a report estimating that the state is facing a $60 billion shortfall for transportation improvements through 2040, and that the state needs to come up with $32 billion just to keep the status quo. Ultimately, legislators control the purse strings as well as revenue options so solving this budget shortfall is largely up to them. Read More

Just out from the NC Budget and Tax Center:

MEDIA RELEASE: Low-income North Carolinians’ needs must be at forefront of public transit plans
Plans should evaluate where low-income individuals – transit’s most reliable customers – live and work

RALEIGH (December 12, 2012) – The success of new and expanded transit in North Carolina will be largely dependent on how well the transit system retains and reaches its most reliable customers – low-income North Carolinians – according to a new report. Read More

Transit supporters in the Triangle have yet another victory to celebrate this morning. Nearly 59 percent of voters in Orange County approved adding a half-cent sales tax increase to the local sales tax rate to expand public transit investments, including additional bus routes and service hours and new light rail. This approval came on the heels of a successful sales tax referendum in Durham County last year. Whether Wake County will follow suit is up in the air and largely dependent on whether County Commissioners will give voters a choice in 2013 to decide.

With this approval, voters are acknowledging that transportation policies that favor highway investments over public transit are no longer sustainable amidst rapid population growth, widespread traffic congestion, and climbing gas prices and vehicle emissions. This approval also sends the message that most voters agree that investments in public transportation pays dividends. Specifically, accessible and affordable transportation creates healthy, connected neighborhoods by improving access to employment, education, and social opportunities—a win for both residents and local businesses. Read More

The combined cost of housing and transportation continue to outpace income growth in the nation’s largest 25 metropolitan areas, according to a report released today by the Center for Housing Policy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology. The authors of the report found that looking at the combined cost of these two indicators is particularly important because transportation-related costs shape the overall affordability of a community, and in turn, affect the ability of families to make ends meet.

From 2000 to 2010, the researchers found that the expenses for housing and transportation rose by $1.75 for each dollar gained in household income, meaning many families are worse off now than at the beginning of the decade. Overall, housing and transportation costs consume nearly half of all household income, forcing many low- and moderate-income families to make tradeoffs between these expense and other expenses like food, child care, and health care. The following policies were among some of the policy tools available that are highlighted in the report:   Read More