This week on Jones Street

As we roll toward April 15th, it would be great to hear from North Carolina citizens everywhere about the Very Big Savings you're seeing on your tax bills. And while you're busy calculating your new-found wealth, you might want to look ahead to the coming Republican "Trojan Horse Tax Cuts":

  • Are you one of the people who had your mortgage written down after being defrauded by the banksters? If so, did you know that the amount of the write-down will now be taxed as income? Even though you'll never see a dime of that amount, guess what? You'll get to pay taxes on it! How cool is that?
  • Are you a student who was counting on being able to deduct tuition expenses from your taxable income? Count no more. If the NC House goes along with Phil Berger's plan, that deduction will be off the table.
  • Are you a person who drives a car? Well, congratulations. Thanks to some legislative sleight of hand, you'll be seeing the amount of tax you pay on gasoline go up, up, and more up later this year. Just you wait.

All of these insults to the middle class are on the docket this week in Raleigh. The only question is whether these bills will sneak through without debate or be rammed down our throats will a hearty "screw you." And that, of course, depends on what kind of speaker Tim Moore is. Will he turn out to be Phil Berger's "yes man" and do the dirty work of further shredding the middle class, or will he stand up and say, "this isn't right."

Smart money says he's a yes man. There not a hint of evidence that he can think for himself, and there's certainly no indication that he understands the toll Republican policies are taking on North Carolina's middle class.

If you're a rich guy who doesn't care about anyone else, you should be delighted this week with the legislature. The Republican plan to help you get even richer is well underway. To those who are counting on trickle down to lift all boats, well, you're basically shit out of luck.

PS Also, look for Democrats to propose legislation for equal rights for women in North Carolina, and that could include equal pay. Then look for Republicans to say "we don't need no stinkin' equality. A woman's place is under her man."

New Report Links Smithfield River Pollution to Political Spending

Raleigh, NC – The owner of Smithfield Foods spent $1.4 million on lobbying in a single year, according to a new report by Environment North Carolina. The enormous spending came after Smithfield Packaging dumped over 2.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals into North Carolina’s waterways in 2012.

“Spending millions on lobbying and campaign contributions shouldn’t give polluters a free pass to dump toxins into our waterways,” said Liz Kazal, Environment North Carolina Field Associate. “We need to do more to ensure that the streams that flow into places like Jordan Lake and the Deep River are protected.”

Coastal Republicans fighting offshore wind

Unless they can get paid nicely for it, that is:

The Brunswick County Commissioners said they still need more information before they can take any formal stance on the topic, but the board unanimously voted at its regular meeting Feb. 16 to send a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opposing wind turbines off the North Carolina coast until its concerns have been adequately addressed.

One of the biggest concerns from the board was how the beach towns would benefit financially, if at all, from offshore wind farms.

And in answer to the question that just surfaced in your mind, no, they don't have all these same concerns and demands about offshore drilling as they do with renewable wind energy:

Daily dose: Hunting season still open edition

'Hunting Ground' Updated (Inside Higher Ed) -- The film originally claimed that the "presidents or chancellors of UNC, Harvard, Notre Dame, Florida State, Berkeley, Occidental and more than 35 other schools all declined to be interviewed." It's no longer making that claim.

NCSU police: Sex assault at frat house reported (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina State University police say a report of a sexual assault at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house early Sunday is under investigation.

Wealthy foreign investors buying path to citizenship

Special rules for special people:

The little-known federal program that provides visas to wealthy foreign investors is perfectly legal, and experts say interest in such visas is surging. The government issues foreigners 10,000 such visas a year, in return for their investments in U.S. projects.

The visas secure permanent residency for the foreign investors and a path to citizenship for them, their spouses and minor children.

Of course, we're not wise enough to recognize the "sweat equity" investments that undocumented workers provide to our economy, even when browsing selections in the produce aisle. That would require way too much thinking. And it might upset the delicate balance of hate and fear with which we've grown so comfortable. Nope, as long as we stick with money as a gauge for worth in society, things are much easier to understand.

Daily dose: Creative bigotry edition

How far must NC go to deal with gay marriage concerns? (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- During the state Senate’s emotional two-hour debate last week over a bill that would allow magistrates and some register of deeds office employees to opt out of facilitating marriages on religious grounds, Sen. Bill Cook made one of proponents’ main arguments in just a few words. “If I were a magistrate and we didn’t pass this bill and I lost my job because I hold certain religious principles dear, I’d sue and I think I’d win,” said Cook, a Beaufort County Republican. Not necessarily, say two experts, one of whom is an advocate of Senate Bill 2, which passed the Senate on Wednesday. But, the bill backer says, just because the state does not have to allow employees to recuse themselves doesn’t mean it cannot legally give them that option.

Daily dose: Weekend edition

Getting ready for the education budget: What you need to know from 2014-15 (EdNC) -- Between the campaign ads last fall and the negative headlines that dominate coverage of our schools, it is hard to know what the deal is with education funding. Is it up? Is it down? Both sides rely on numbers that support their conclusions and pick the comparison point that strengthens their argument.

Will snow, ice reduce state General Assembly agenda? (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Don't let your friends from up North criticize the way Western North Carolina handles significant snowfall. Tell them to pick on the Piedmont, and Raleigh in particular, instead. Ice and snow last week and mostly snow this week forced cancellation of several legislative sessions and a raft of committee meetings. The House didn't meet Wednesday or Thursday and plans only a pro forma session Friday with just a handful of members attending. The Senate managed to hold a floor session Wednesday with 48 of 50 senators present, but cancelled its Thursday session and will meet with only a skeleton crew on Friday.

NC Juggles Fuel Taxes To Disguise Increase (Go by truck news) -- North Carolina Senators have passed a bill that would freeze fuel taxes until the end of the year, when the rate would increase by nearly 3 percent. The bill is designed to address two problems: 1) falling tax income with the decrease in fuel prices, and 2) a longer-term need for increased transportation funding. If passed, S20, would freeze fuel taxes at 35 cents per gallon through the end of 2015. Next year, the 7 percent wholesale part of the tax rate would be increased to 9.9 percent. Instead of being adjusted every six months, the rate would be adjusted once a year.


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