Sunday News: Counting the costs of institutional bigotry


A YEAR OF SHAME AND EMBARRASSMENT THANKS TO HB2: As North Carolina marks the first anniversary of House Bill 2 next week, an ongoing political stalemate is making a prolonged economic backlash – and future anniversaries – likely. The law, widely criticized as anti-LGBT, has cost North Carolinians jobs, money, performances and events, including this month’s NCAA basketball tournament. “The longer it stays on our books, the more difficulty we will have repairing the damage,” Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said last week. “It’s hard to quantify the damage.” Through research and interviews with economists, Politifact estimates that HB2 has cost North Carolina between $450 million and $630 million. But in perspective, that accounts for 0.1 percent of the state’s annual gross domestic product, notes Michael Walden, an N.C. State economist. “So we know that it’s hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs, but it could be worse than that because what we’re not getting is what we don’t know,” Cooper said.

RESTORE TEACHING FELLOWS PROGRAM TO ITS FORMER SELF: By these measures, the program, which began in 1986, was a tremendous success. So it was disheartening that the legislature began to phase it out as soon as Republicans took control in 2011. The legislative proposals would not fully restore the program. They would provide up to $8,250 per year in forgivable loans for four years to students who would become teachers after graduating. They could erase a year of debt for each year teaching in a low-performing school or for every two years teaching math, science or special education. Each class of fellows would consist of 160 future teachers. The original program covered 500 students each year, so the new program would have to grow substantially to match its impact. But it’s a start.

MYTH-BUSTING REPUBLICANS' CLAIMS OF TAX CUTS CREATING JOBS: The misleading aspect of the Republican claim of “half a million new jobs” is the number is without context. Yes, the state has added 574,700 payroll jobs between the start of the recovery in February 2010 and January of 2017. That translates to an average growth of 2 percent a year, largely in line with growth in the national economy. More significantly, North Carolina’s job growth has come as the state’s population has expanded. Jobs are merely keeping up with more people, a pattern that almost certainly would have occurred – as it has in other states – without tax cuts. Finally, all jobs are not equal. Many of the new jobs are low-paying or temporary. Wage growth has been stagnant even as inflation has crept upward. Most people sense that they are not gaining ground. That’s why Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign talk of a “Carolina Comeback” didn’t resonate with workers. Many haven’t come back, they’re falling behind or staying in place.

DON'T BUILD THE MID-CURRITUCK BRIDGE: The project, with a price tag greaters than $600 million, makes less and less sense with each year. To address summer-weekend traffic congestion, the N.C. Department of Transportation is proposing a massive seven-mile toll bridge to a shifting and environmentally sensitive barrier island community. Those of us who cherish everything that makes the northern Outer Banks so special are asking NCDOT to take a fresh look at alternatives. We hired an outside expert with decades of experience to take a fresh look at alternative solutions for the northern Outer Banks. Our expert, Walter Kulash, is a professional engineer who prides himself on finding sensible, low-cost solutions sensitive to the needs of local communities. For Currituck County and the northern Outer Banks, Kulash has developed a solution that is not only comprehensive, but also has excellent value.

FIX OUR PROBLEMS BEFORE CUTTING OUR TAXES: The lawmakers in Raleigh who are proposing another round of big tax cuts may be showing that their vision doesn't stretch a day beyond the next election. Not that we're against tax cuts. We like having more money in our paycheck as much as anyone. And we like the idea of taking a smaller bite out of corporate profits, too. Trouble is, we're not seeing much evidence that our legislative leaders looked at the other side of the ledger before the submitted tax-cut legislation. And that side of the books has some glaring deficiencies. The state's own bureaucracy has been heavily trimmed, and many agencies don't have sufficient staff to get the job done. Mental health care is almost a joke. Lawmakers debate how best to beat our rampant opioid addiction problem while we're thousands of beds short of treatment capacity. Many of our roads are a mess, in poor shape and unable to cope with growing volumes of traffic as our state's population rises. And our highway trust funds fall miles short of what's needed to fix the problem, given cuts in gasoline tax rates, continuing low fuel prices and the steady rise in average fuel economy for the cars out on our roads. Those issues and many more need to be addressed, but instead we're hearing discussion of more tax cuts for this year and next.



A day of editorials

Since Sunday seems to be the day that newspapers favor when publishing opinion pieces, who are we to question their judgment? That was a joke, of course. We question their judgment all the time. But in this case, they may be correct. Sunday is a good day to contemplate issues on a higher level than just regurgitating data and actions. If you see a particular op-ed or even a letter to the editor that stirs your juices, post it here so we can all chew on it a little bit.