Daily Dose: Dallas-embarrasses-even-his-mother edition

A Mother's Take on a Her Sons' Disagreement Plays Out on C-Span (New York Times) -- The Woodhouse brothers get a surprise caller to their joint appearance on C-Span: their mother. … Mrs. Woodhouse hoped that the brothers’ television bickering could help ease some tension before Christmas. “They’re both very passionate about what they believe in,” she said. “I hope that they can kind of get this out of their system today on your program.”

For McCrory, money does grow on a Tree

Ethical questions just keep piling up:

In the months after receiving his $171,071 payout of stock from Tree.com, McCrory appointed the state's banking director and a majority of the banking commissioners who regulate mortgage brokers. Some of Tree.com's payments to McCrory and Sanford weren't publicly disclosed until May 2014, when the company filed its 2013 year-end proxy statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

McCrory declined requests for an interview. In a written statement, McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said the governor fully complied with state law and "continues to uphold high ethical standards."

From taking money from out-of-state gambling concerns to insider stock trading, McCrory's ethical lapses have become so numerous they can no longer be attributed to ignorance or incompetence. It's time for a special prosecutor to open an investigation, just like George Holding did when Mike Easley was called to the carpet.

Solving complicated problems

Sometimes, the solutions to big, honking problems involve taking simple actions that almost everyone can agree are a good idea. In the case of Social Security funding, raising the ceiling is a no-brainer. In the case of our mass-incarceration problem, ending the War on Drugs is also a no-brainer. Any management consultant anywhere (I'm looking at your Thom Tillis) would put these ideas on the table without hesitation unless he or she was a sold-out ideological whore (I'm still looking at you Thom Tillis).

A brutal assessment of McCrory's failure to keep his word

I ask forgiveness in advance from Chris Fitzsimon for publishing his entire column here. Knowing that many people don't click through to links, I wanted to make sure that everyone in yelling distance reads this candid and on-the-mark assessment of what has happened in Raleigh. My apologies to NC Policy Watch for this breach of protocol.

The stories are coming fast and furious now. The Winston-Salem Journal reports that schools in Rockingham County, the home of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, don’t have enough textbooks to go around and there’s no money to make copies or even buy toilet paper for the bathrooms.

School officials are searching for a warehouse to collect donated classroom supplies. The public schools are the new struggling charity in town.

The Charlotte Observer reports that the state court system is almost paralyzed by lack of funding. The courts, already woefully behind in technology, have experienced a 25 percent cut in technology staff in the last five years.

The percentage of criminal cases more than two years old has doubled in the last four years, leaving defendants and victims waiting for justice. The percentage of civil cases that old have tripled, leaving businesses unable to resolve legal disputes they must address before they can expand or increase their investments in their communities.

Money to pay jurors will run out in a few months, long before the end of the fiscal year.

Thousands of low-income parents across the state are finding out they will no longer receive child care subsidies that allow them to work or go back to school to learn a marketable skill. The leaders of the General Assembly changed the eligibility guidelines to save money. That’s why they cut education budgets too and refused desperate pleas from court officials for more funding. They had a massive tax cut for the wealthy and corporations to pay for and the bill is growing.

When lawmakers passed the great tax shift of 2013 that gave millionaires a $10,000 tax break, they told us it would cost the state $513 million in the current fiscal year of 2014-2015. Since then the projected cost has risen to $704 million and may increase to a billion dollars before year’s end.

That’s a lot of textbooks, court technology and day care subsidies.

And it was not supposed to be this way according to someone who has the final say, Governor Pat McCrory. McCrory told the General Assembly in his State of the State speech in 2013 that any tax reform must be revenue neutral, that it must bring in the same amount of money that the tax system was generating for the state before the changes were made. And yet the tax legislation that McCrory signed last year is now at least $700 million away from neutral and he knew it was out of balance when he signed it.

That decision, to break his commitment to a revenue neutral tax plan, ranks among the most devastating of the long list of bad choices made by state leaders in the last few years.

That’s not even taking into account the startling regressive nature of the tax changes that gives millionaires their windfall while ending the state Earned Income Tax Credit that helps low-wage workers. More than two-thirds of the 2013 tax cuts are going to the wealthiest one percent of North Carolinians.

The tax cuts were a disaster all on their own, apart from the benefits directed to the wealthy, because of the cuts they forced lawmakers to make in state services to pay for them, from schools to courts to safety net programs like child care and low-income housing.

McCrory has never said much about breaking his commitment, other than one clumsy and belated effort to redefine what revenue neutral means. He was right the first time. The last thing the state needed after the Great Recession devastated state revenues and forced deep budget cuts was to force another round of cuts on its own by slashing revenues again. But that’s exactly what the General Assembly did and what Gov. McCrory allowed with his signature on the tax shift bill in 2013.

Senator Jeff Tarte told the Charlotte Observer recently that financially-strapped state agencies are asking lawmakers for money the state doesn’t have and that the budget process “operates like a United Way” with everybody making requests. But the United Way doesn’t start out by giving away half its available resources to the wealthiest families in town and then throw up its hands at all the requests for assistance from soup kitchens and say there’s not money available to help.

The top economist at the General Assembly recently confirmed that state revenues are running almost $200 million below projections for the year. And that’s even after adjusting once for the rising costs of the 2013 tax cuts.

It’s too bad Governor McCrory didn’t live up to his commitment in 2013. You will be reading about the repercussions of that decision for years to come in stories about desperate schools, paralyzed courts, and struggling families in your community.

Just how crazy has the NC GOP become?

Thoroughly bat-shit insane, that's how crazy the NC GOP has become. The latest evidence that what used to be LaRouche-caliber lunatic fringe extremism has now become the GOP mainstream was offered at the NC GOP holiday party hosted by US Rep. Charles Taylor. Ol' Chuck decided that no one exudes the Christmas spirit like the disgraced, indicted wacko Tom DeLay, whom he invited to be the featured speaker.

Former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay called President Obama a Marxist at a large GOP gathering here Friday night and said the country must return religion to government.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

Bringing less than nothing to the table:

Definitely following in Richard Burr's footsteps. Self-styled "defender of veterans" or some other flag-waving label, Tillis will cut their benefits and chicken-hawk them into as many global conflicts as he can, and then take a shower in campaign cash to make him feel better.

Daily Dose: The other hand taketh edition

McCrory, lawmakers pledge tax help for NC cities (WRAL-TV) -- Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane was paying close attention Thursday when Gov. Pat McCrory was talking about holding lawmakers' feet to the fire on the privilege license tax. If no changes are made to state law, the tax cities charge to businesses that set up shop within their boundaries expires next summer, knocking holes in local budgets around the state. "It's a huge deal," McFarlane said after McCrory finished speaking. Raleigh figures that the privilege tax brings in $7.5 million. That doesn't sound like a lot in terms of the city's $754 million budget, but $7.5 million is more than the city spends on grants to arts, human services and economic development groups combined. Pretty much every city leader sitting in the room during the North Carolina League of Municipalities legislative goal-setting conference could tell a similar story, which explains why McCrory got a round of applause for noting that lawmakers had promised to help local governments replace the lost revenue.

Will Pat ever go bye-bye?

McHenry brags about slashing the budget of the EPA:

"Additionally the funding legislation passed Thursday includes a number of important changes including cuts to EPA funding and staffing, cuts that will drop the agency to levels last seen in the 1980s."

That’s quite an accomplishment McHenry is touting, reducing the funding for the agency that protects our water and air and land to the level it was funded 30 years ago. It will be hard to count on the EPA to do its job as a “partner” in cracking down on coal ash pollution if folks like Rep. McHenry keep crusading to make it unable to do its job. Unless of course that was the plan all along.

Massive cuts to DENR, followed by Congressional whittling of the EPA, are most definitely part of the long-term plans of the Koch Bothers' puppets in the Republican Party. And when it's all said and done, we won't even know just how bad we've been poisoned.

There's a good reason NC is becoming known for crappy public education

His name is Phil Berger

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger doesn’t have to go very far to see the effect of the education budgets he and his Republican colleagues in Raleigh have passed in the last four years. The Winston-Salem Journal reported this weekend that the schools in Berger’s home county of Rockingham are struggling with the very basics.


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