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Feb
02

Pat McCrory’s Greatest Hits

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The late Benny Hill, from his critically acclaimed role in “Memoirs of the Pope Administration”

It may seem a little premature to recount Pat McCrory’s top hits as governor, but the first month of his tenure has given us enough gems that it seems like a good idea to stop and take stock before the legislative session begins and the wonders of January start to fade with distance. So here’s a run down of what I believe to be the best quotes to come out of the McCrory administration so far. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. “The educated elite have taken over.”

“I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs.”

Tom Sullivan has already done a good job unpacking the beauty of this statement. For myself, I’m wondering who’s supposed to be in charge of education apart from “educational elites.” Educational mediocrities, maybe?

2. “I’m trying to make it.”

And yet it’s clear that McCrory doesn’t have a problem with elites in general. Read More→

Photo credit: stgermh, from flickr

Well, Raleigh’s already getting cranked up for the great GOP-ageddon. But as we we move into a legislative session that’s likely to strip Asheville of its water system, “reform” our tax system so that the poor pay more and the rich pay less, and start a debate over whether we should simply starve our public school system out of existence or just go ahead and privatize it as fast as possible, I think it might be edifying to reflect on all the ways things actually were not so great while the Democrats controlled Raleigh.

Don’t get me wrong: I mean today’s Democrats. I’m not faulting the NCDP for a forced sterilization program that started in the ’30’s. Or for the violent repression of Black Republicans and their white allies back in the 19th century. You may as well blame Susan Fisher for the acts of secession. Parties change over time: coalitions shift, members die off, new members arrive with different ideals and goals. But there are instances where today’s generation of Democratic legislators—and the ones who lost their seats two years ago—need to be held to account for all the skill they showed over the past few decades in thwarting progress when they held the house, or the senate, or the governor’s mansion, or all three.

So I decided to compile this list of the top five reasons that I won’t miss the late, lamented Democratic majorities in the North Carolina General Assembly.

1. The glacial pace of change.

Let’s start with the Racial Justice Act, passed in 2010 (and then essentially repealed by the GOP last year). Read More→

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Jan
23

The One Chart You Need to Understand “Tax Reform”

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Really. Just one. This one:

What’s this about? Details after the jump. Read More→

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Jun
14

Apples to Apples

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In a post at the Progressive Pulse (the blog of NC Policy Watch), Brenna Burch lists a few of the accounting tricks that make the difference between the legislature’s budget and Governor Perdue’s seem smaller than it actually is:

While the legislature’s total appropriation is $19.7 billion, about $197 million of that amount comes from moving the Highway Patrol’s budget from the Highway Fund to the General Fund. The Highway Patrol has long been accounted for under the Transportation budget, which is funded not by General Fund revenues – personal income tax, corporate income tax, sales tax, etc. – but by the highway use tax and the gas tax. So, while this shift has no net impact on total State revenues or spending, the act of transferring it over to the General Fund is shown as $197 million in increased availability, offset by $197 million in “new” General Fund spending. This raises the total budget number to $19.7 billion, up from $19.5 billion.

Got it? About $200 million of the legislature’s budget is money that Beverly Perdue would also have spent – it’s just that she didn’t throw it into the general fund. There are a few other tricks like that: Brenna points to the Wildlife Resource Commission, and I would mention the shifting of More at Four out of the “education” budget and into the “human resources” budget (which, whatever the merits of the change, allows Republicans to crow about how little they’ve slashed “education” funding).

She provides a chart laying out the differences between Perdue’s cuts and the legislature’s on a subject-by-subject basis. Using that chart and a spreadsheet, you get the following real differences between the two budgets:
Read More→

Apr
06

NC Uncut?

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The “uncut” movement—in which citizens in the US and UK have come together to oppose the upward redistribution of wealth under the guise of “austerity”—is one of the most promising new features of our political landscape. From recent demonstrations against Bank of America (which led one branch manager to pull a fire alarm in surrender before protesters could even come inside) to what may be the largest popular demonstration London has seen since the invasion of Iraq, people are coming together to protest policies that allow the rich to avoid paying taxes—and even get government help—while services that ordinary people depend on get slashed to the bone.

If you’re interested in how the debate between austerity and basic justice might play out at the state level, then look no further than this table presented by the NC Budget and Tax Center, part of a fantastic series on the Republicans’ proposed budget: Read More→

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Mar
23

Unparallelled.

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One thing you hear constantly from North Carolina conservatives is that “North Carolina has higher tax rates than any neighboring state.” The implication seems to be that we’re taxing our citizens — or at least our businesses — right out of our borders, and that eventually the area stretching from Manteo to Murphy – and from Danville, VA to Rock Hill, SC – will become something like North Korea, with Beverly Perdue playing the part of Kim Jong-Il. Even if the rhetoric doesn’t normally get that heated (except on Citizen-Times comment threads), the implication is clear: North Carolinians are fools for allowing their state government to take so much of their income.

As it happens, though, the truth is that North Carolina’s tax rates are pretty much in line with other southern states – and below the national average.

After the jump, I’ve put up two charts: both of them are for 2008. (Note that I’ve included local taxes as part of the breakdown – that’s important information when you’re comparing us to say, Florida, where there’s no state income tax and local governments use property taxes to make up for the funding they don’t get from the state.) Do you see North Carolina’s tax burden – expressed as a percentage of the all the money made by everyone in the state during the year – putting us head and shoulders above other southern states? Read More→

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Mar
09

Unsustainable.

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Chart #1 in a continuing series on our state budget crisis.

From a brief written by Edwin McLenahan at the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center:

Read More→

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Mar
02

Some Perspective

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. . . as offered by Chris Fitzsimon of North Carolina Policy Watch:

42 million—amount in dollars of state funding of the Department of Public Instruction in Raleigh (Putting the Public School Budget in Context, Department of Public Instruction, November 19, 2010)

107.4 million—amount in dollars of state funding for central office personnel in local school districts (Ibid)

613.6—amount in dollars of education cuts that still need to be made to reach House and Senate targets if state funding for DPI was eliminated and all funding for central staff in local school districts was ended and all superintendents, associate/assistant superintendents, finance officers, curriculum experts, and others were laid off. (Ibid)

Got that? Even if you laid off all central staff at the state and county level, our state’s public schools would still need to slash an average of $6 million per county (slightly less than $6 million per school system).

I would add two more figures to Fitzsimon’s list: Read More→

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Feb
24

Action/News

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Because goodness knows we could use a new thread around here.

So Drew Reisinger won the Register of Deeds race. Congratulations, Drew!

This weekend is also the date for the first action by US Uncut, a group modeling itself on the folks who have worked creatively to highlight the crazy injustices Britons have to grapple with as their government pursues austerity at all costs.

There’s no Uncut event scheduled for Asheville – despite the fact that this week’s target, Bank of America, has some serious ties to our great state.

It does, however, look as if the MoveOn event in solidarity with the Wisconsin demonstrations scheduled for noon Saturday at Pritchard Park will have a decent turnout.

Anything else folks should do or know?

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The annual precinct meetings of the North Carolina Democratic Party are coming up. They’re currently scheduled for Saturday, March 5, with a make-up/alternate date on March 8. Exact places and times should be available soon at the county party website, and will probably also appear in the Citizen-Times and Mountain Xpress.

There’s supposed to be one in every precinct in the state, and that includes the precinct you live in. At these meetings, the various precincts will start the process by which the party organizes itself every two years: they will elect precinct officers, elect delegates to the county convention, and maybe get a head start on grassroots campaigns to support Democratic candidates. They’re a great way to meet politically aware folks in your neighborhood, too, and offer an opportunity—through the process of drafting resolutions for the county convention—to educate your neighbors about the issues that are of greatest concern to you.

I’ve been a precinct officer for close to eight years now, having been first elected to that position (by five of my neighbors) in March of 2003. When I started, I thought that “precinct chair” had a romantic ring to it (though I was mildly disappointed that I wasn’t going to be a “precinct captain”). My election coincided with the beginning of the Dean campaign, and at that time I believed that if someone wanted to reform this country, then the only effective strategy was to work within the Democratic Party.

Honestly, that didn’t work out so well. Read More→