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Thom TillisNorth Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis headlined a press event at the General Assembly this morning that was supposed to be about kicking off the 2014 legislative session but that, at times, felt a lot like a part of Tillis’ U.S. Senate campaign.

There will plenty of time for dissecting the details of what was said at the event, but there was at least one familiar conservative talking point repeated by Tillis that deserves to be debunked immediately and often.

Namely, it is utterly absurd for legislative conservatives (or anyone else for that matter) to argue — as the Speaker did at at least one point — that Democrats imposed more significant cuts on state services (like public education) back in 2009 and 2010 than have been imposed since the GOP assumed control of the General Assembly  in 2011 and the Governor’s mansion in 2013. This is like blaming FDR for the plunge in federal spending during the Great Depression.

Earth to Speaker Tillis: Yes there were large and problematic state budget cuts in 2009 and 2010, but that’s mostly because state revenues had literally dropped like an anvil as a result of the global Great Recession. Read More

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Yesterday it was the CEO of one of the nation’s largest fast food chains and today it’s Mr. 47% —  the 2012 Republican presidential nominee. As the Los Angeles Times reports:

“Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Friday called for an increase in the federal minimum wage, splitting with party leaders and some top business groups on what’s expected to a major issue in this year’s midterm elections.

‘I … part company with many of the conservatives of my party on the issue of the minimum wage,’ he said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

‘I think we ought to raise it because, frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay, and I think communicating that is important to us,’ he said.

It will be fascinating to see if Republican officials choose to follow the lead of their former party standard bearer (and former far right presidential candidate Rick Santorum — who also endorsed a hike) or instead remain true to the Koch Brothers and the far right think tanks that question even the existence of the minimum wage. North Carolina House Speaker and U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis seems to have made his bed with the latter camp for now. Stay tuned.

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This morning’s lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer gets it right in its characterization of the push by state legislative leaders to plow ahead with their school voucher scheme despite the certainty of lengthy litigation over the issue and the existence of a court injunction against it:

“It really is time to stop calling those who run the N.C. General Assembly conservatives. They are not conservative. They are reckless.

There’s a long list of actions that demonstrates their disregard for what defines the truly conservative. They hand out extravagant amounts to the wealthy in tax cuts and leave the state strapped for basic services. They turn down billions of dollars in federal support for the jobless and the health needs of the working poor. They ignore the principles of sound investment by cutting spending on public schools and higher education. They trample constitutional ideals regarding voting rights and civil rights. They shirk their obligations to be careful stewards of the environment.

The list could go on, but the case is concisely illustrated in the latest turmoil over school vouchers.” Read More

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The lead editorial in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer tells it like it is with respect to the issue of unemployment insurance and North Carolina’s harshest-in-the-nation decision to cut off benefits to folks in need:

“It was one of the more shameful moments in the not-exactly-illustrious rule of Republicans in the General Assembly and the governor’s mansion. Last summer, GOP lawmakers cut state unemployment benefits knowing it would mean that jobless North Carolinians, many of them innocent victims of the Great Recession, would lose emergency federal benefits.

North Carolina was the only state to reduce unemployment benefits even though federal law required states to maintain benefit amounts to qualify for the extended federal payments. Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican lawmakers justified leaving thousands and thousands of families in the cold by saying that extended unemployment benefits discouraged people from going back to work. Read More

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Be sure to check out this morning’s edition of Chris Fitzsimon’s “Monday numbers” column today in which he examines the politically-motivated rush to judgment by conservative lawmakers on the matter of recent “voter fraud” allegations. And in case you missed it, the Charlotte Observer had a good editorial on the subject over the weekend.

As both posts note, the breathless claims of Phil Berger and Thom Tillis are as off-base as the monster voter suppression law the two rammed through last year. This is from the editorial:

“’We have to ensure this is what happened, and it wasn’t an error on someone’s part,’” [State Board of Election Director Kim] Strach said.

She’s right – and after that, the state needs to determine when the possible fraud occurred and how it might be stopped. Sounds obvious, but that’s not how Republicans approached the issue of voter fraud Read More