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What the legislature isn’t telling you about 2015

Our lawmakers have been embroiled in contentious debates about teacher pay and Medicaid, among other issues, as they struggle to revise our $21 billion state budget. While these are undoubtedly important and deserve attention they are symptoms of a much larger problem.

10 hours ago | | | Email

Credit claims are poorly scripted

When liberals debate tax policy, it can be hard to keep track of their current positions. They keep changing.Right now, for example, Democratic politicians and left-wing activists are castigating Republicans in the General Assembly for proposing a reduction or elimination of North Carolina’s tax credit for film and television production. They say that the tax break, with a state fiscal impact of $61 million a year, is critical to luring and retaining businesses that directly ...

3 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

So many new voters, where did they come from?

“Voters born elsewhere make up nearly half of N.C. electorate.”So begins the latest DataNet report from the UNC Program on Public Life, directed by former journalist Ferrel Guillory.So what? What difference does it make to us that almost half of North Carolina voters were born somewhere else?To begin to show the importance of such a large number of non-North Carolina natives participating in the state’s election process, DataNet gives us a sh...

5 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

You Decide: What are the gains and gaps in our economy?

Twice a year, I pull out my cloudy crystal ball and attempt to make some predictions about the direction and pace of the North Carolina economy. I just finished my latest effort and, as usual, the results are a combination of pluses and minuses.Any economic forecast must begin with the national economy for the simple reason that, regardless of where you live in the country, roughly two-thirds of what happens to commerce is determined by the ups and downs of the national economy. He...

6 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

It’s about more than cutting teacher assistants

Senate leaders continue to propose cutting teacher assistants as a way to pay for a significant teacher salary bump, the first teachers have seen in years.While the General Assembly debates back and forth over the impact teacher assistants have in the classroom, there’s another factor in the equation that is getting far less attention – who will drive the school buses?“If they cut teacher assistants, it will have a major impact on transporting our stude...

11 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

Plant the seed for fruitful debate

I’m told that while there is no firmly established gift tradition for a 28th anniversary, the modern practice is to signify the event with an orchid.Well, this month marks the 28th anniversary of the birth of my syndicated column on North Carolina politics and public policy. It began during my tenure as a part-time reporter for a Nash County newspaper, the Spring Hope Enterprise. By the end of the 1980s, the column was running in several other newspapers in eastern North Caro...

12 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

Books: Showing us as it once was, is, or could be

Why do we read books?For entertainment, of course, first and foremost. But the best books also challenge us emotionally and intellectually to see the world in a different way, as it really is, or as it once was, as it could be, or, perhaps, as it will become.Here are some summer reading ideas of North Carolina books that could open your eyes to seeing our world differently and entertaining you at the same time.First of all, “Crossroads of the Natural Wor...

13 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

Our commitment to conservation is permanent

As the U.S. population continues to expand over the next several decades, open lands for farming, grazing, fishing, hunting or hiking will become increasingly hard to find.One of the most cost-effective ways of conserving these precious lands is known as a conservation easement, whereby a local landowner donates the future development rights to his or her land in exchange for a limited federal tax benefit.Currently, there are nearly 190,000 acres enrolled in land trusts ...

14 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

North Carolina dreaming

Last year North Carolina’s conservative Republican legislature got tough. It sharply reduced the duration of unemployment benefits and made them much more difficult to collect. The changes took effect at the start of July, 2013. Their story was that unemployment insurance and other benefits discourage workers from seriously looking for jobs. If we take away this crutch of unemployment benefits, then workers will figure out how to find jobs. This both saves the government money and is be...

14 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

Obamacare doomed? Don’t bet on it

The world was supposed to end in 2012 according to various misinterpretations of Mayan culture. Then, when time kept ticking along into 2013 the doomsday preachers had to recalculate. Recently, there was news that a group called the Sword of God Brotherhood has changed humanity’s end date to January 1, 2017.History tells us two things about these Cassandras who give us specifics about the Apocalypse: one, they are always wrong, and, two, being wrong will not dissuade them fro...

18 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

Preserving the monuments of a controversial past

“You see him and ask: ‘Why is the statue still here? What was it he actually stood for?’ This is the kind of debate that a public work of art makes possible. We won’t change the way people think just by getting rid of a monument.”The mayor of one of Mecklenburg’s largest municipalities is defending the refusal to remove a statue of a hero of another era, but one who today offends many residents.This raises again the question of what to...

19 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

Serve a different plate

As often happens at the North Carolina General Assembly, the new fiscal year has begun with the House and Senate not yet finished with a budget-adjustment bill. Medicaid funding, teacher compensation, and a few other issues continue to divide the two chambers.Call me odd — it’ll hardly be the first time — but one issue I hope doesn’t get left on the table is a provision in the House budget that would allow me to take the “First in Flight” license...

21 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

Ideology holding up budget, not Medicaid

It turns out that the disagreement between the House and Senate over the cost of Medicaid next year is not the only thing holding up a final state budget that provides a pay raise for teachers and state employees.Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger told WRAL-TV that any budget deal must not only include the Senate’s estimates of Medicaid costs but must also reduce the number of people who are covered by the program.Berger said the Senate wanted “reductions i...

22 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

Separation anxieties

The governor of North Carolina is widely acknowledged to be the weakest and least powerful of any in the nation. Gov. Pat McCrory is right in being concerned about possible further erosion of that power.It was no accident that the framers of our government determined not to vest too much power in the hands of a few. Given their experience with the King of England they were fearful of a future ruler. In North Carolina, the balance of power has always resided with the legislative ove...

23 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

Celebrating our independence

Two hundred and 38 years ago today, the final wording of this nation’s Declaration of Independence was adopted and the Dunlap Broadsides — the first printed copies of the declaration — were circulated throughout the 13 colonies.The United States already had declared its freedom. That was done two days before by the Continental Congress. But on July 4, 1776, the founding fathers pledged that this new nation would be free from the British Empire (although fighting i...

24 days 10 hours ago | | | Email

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