NCGA

Senior citizens suffering under GOP tax shift

Picking the shallow pockets of the elderly:

Murry Bubar was shocked this year when he did the taxes for his ex-wife, as he always does, and found that she owed $104 under the new system.

His ex-wife, Barbara Bubar, is 79, blind and lives in the Alzheimer’s unit of an assisted-living facility. Bubar’s income from Social Security amounted to $9,300 last year. “This is the first time in years she has had to pay any state taxes,” Bubar said. “Her medical bills are more than her income.”

By all rights, this shameless exploitation of older North Carolinians should prove to be the undoing of the GOP, since this demographic votes in numbers and usually a high percentage choose Republican candidates. But old habits are hard to break, especially for the Fox News viewers who have a fresh anti-Obama scandal shoved down their throats daily. Speaking of somebody who needs something shoved down his throat:

GOP cherry-picking data to block wind energy projects

Skvarla's replacement carrying the banner for the fossil fuel industry:

North Carolina’s environment secretary has urged a federal agency not to sell wind energy leases within 24 miles of the state’s coast, a limit that advocates say would largely block wind farms.

Van der Vaart’s letter said the two zones near tourist-heavy Wilmington deserve similar protection. He said studies commissioned by New Jersey found significant declines in tourism when energy projects can be seen from shore.

Here is the study itself, with the relevant impacts to tourism data beginning on page 29. As you can see, their perusal of available literature on wind farms worldwide show minimal negative impacts to tourism, and some areas claiming a massive increase due to the visibility of wind farms. Additional specific (NJ) site polling and projections show a net gain in tourism dollars, but you have to actually finish reading the tourism section before you get to that conclusion. If this is the study to which Van der Vaart is referring, his comment and position reflect either a serious lack of scholarly capabilities, or an intentional desire to misuse data. Or maybe both. But no matter how you look at it, his qualifications as head of DENR are in question.

Public Comments on G'boro Redistricting at NCGA

The Redistricting Committee is meeting at NCGA, Sen Rucho is Chair.
(consider all paraphrased, not direct quote)
Sen Trudy Wade will speak for her bill, Senate Bill 36.
Her bill would re-district Greensboro city, and is non-partisan. Each district would have a smaller population, and, she said, would encourage more people to run for office and pay less to do so.
Among other things, the bill adds districts. Also changes the duties, so that the mayor only votes in case of a tie. If passed would apply to the 2015 elections.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Arsenic and hog waste choking the Neuse

The Riverkeeper details the damage:

Every hour of every day, the coal ash pits on the bank of the Neuse River are illegally leaking dangerous contamination into the surrounding ground and surface water. In fact, one of the criminal charges against Duke Energy was for “negligently” constructing one of these creek-like discharges that continues to flow into the Neuse from the ash pits at this dump. The Lee site has the highest levels of arsenic contamination of all Duke’s ash dumps in North Carolina.

But yet another continuous source of pollution looms on the banks and tributaries of the Neuse: industrial hog operations, most of which are controlled by foreign corporate interests. Over 500 of the 2,000 industrial hog factories in North Carolina call the Neuse River Basin home. The 10 million hogs that live in our state produce roughly as much waste as 100 million people.

Much like coal ash, hog waste contamination has been a huge problem for decades. We haven't done nearly enough to abate the problem, but it looks like the new "business-friendly" administration of Skvarla and McCrory has dropped the ball entirely:

Hager tries to pull a fast one, gets caught

And we can all breathe easier, for now anyway:

"Representative Hager’s amendment removes the only statutory requirement for the EMC to move forward with regulation of air pollution from natural gas development. It does so without any legislative committee review or opportunity for public debate," McCallie wrote. Had the amendment remained attached to the bill, the state Senate could have sent the measure to the governor without a public hearing or committee examination.

"I really don't believe this amendment ought to be part of this bill," Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, said of the measure. Hager shot back, saying, "Don't fool yourself ... this is about folks who don't like energy exploration."

Nice try, sport. Now put that ad hominem club back in the bag, and go home and lick your wounds.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

It's all about the Benjamins:

Now we'll see a test of wills between moderate Republicans and my-way-or-the-highway Tea Party nutters:

Republican efforts to suppress Gene Nichol backfired

Bouncing back stronger than before

On an otherwise dark day for the University of North Carolina, I am happy to announce that, in response to the censorship efforts of the Board of Governors, an impressive array of foundations and private donors has stepped forward to assure that the work of the center, if not the center itself, will continue and markedly expand. Generous grants and donations will allow for the creation of a North Carolina poverty research fund at the law school to support our efforts to describe, document and combat the wrenching challenges of Tar Heel poverty.

The fund will allow us to hire student, faculty and post-doctorate scholars to assist me in probing the causes of, and solutions to, economic injustice. We will carry forward the work of the center within the halls of the university, but with greater flexibility and increased resources. North Carolinians are not easily cowered. They react poorly to petty tyrants. They always have. If the Board of Governors moves to block the creation of such a research fund – a turn that is not unlikely – I will be eager to join them in federal court.

This should serve as another "learning experience" for Republicans, but I doubt they're clever enough to understand it. The capricious use of government power to stifle the voice of an individual or group will always generate a backlash. Call it the "underdog effect" if you like, or even the double underdog effect (going after Professor Nichol and those who are suffering from poverty), but we as a society abhor such behavior in our leaders. Yes, there may be some Conservative pundits and anti-intellectuals who favor this, but they are a distinct minority. What goes around comes around.

Stam persists with his fuzzy math on state revenues

"Everything is just fine," said the Captain of the Titanic:

Regarding the Charlotte Observer column “A shortfall of candor” that you reprinted Feb. x: Taylor Batten confuses “revenue” with “budget” There is a $271 million “shortfall” from the 2014 prophecies about the 2014-2015 budget. The budget itself contains explicit language that the governor shall reduce expenditures to not exceed actual revenue. North Carolina does not print money or borrow for current expenses.

The “cautious, conservative consensus forecast” for the General Fund is $20,730,100,000. This is $586,400,000 more than collected in fiscal year 2013-14. That is a 2.9 percent increase, not a decrease. For that same time period, inflation plus population growth is estimated by our nonpartisan professional fiscal staff between 2.8 percent and 3 percent.

Dude, inflation and population growth might have some bearing when you're comparing budgets and revenues separated by 5-10 years or more, but were talking this year vs last year. And last year you had $20,954,461,349 to play with, before you socked away some $300 million for use this year. And according to the Governor's projections from just last year, you should have had $21,090,914,663 to play with this year, and that was already factoring in over $500 million in reduced tax collections. The bottom line? How in the hell are we supposed to figure out the bottom line when you play 3 Card Monty with the money every year? But it appears that $271 million shortfall is really over twice as much, well past the catastrophic point.

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