NCGA

GOP tax reform: Lose your home to foreclosure, and then pay taxes on it

They have absolutely no shame:

One of the other provisions in the legislation would startlingly hurt homeowners struggling with foreclosure by counting as income any portion of their mortgage debt forgiven by a lender.

Sen. Tamara Barringer, a Republican, bucked her leadership and voted against the bill because of the change, telling the News & Observer, “these are people that have lost their homes. Are we going to tax them when they’re trying to get back on their feet?” Apparently the answer from Senate leaders is yes. There were no hearings on that part of the gas tax bill, no discussion with mortgage lenders or people who work with struggling homeowners.

I hope my friends who support the gas tax will join me in calling for a Veto for this bill. And I also hope AG Roy Cooper speaks out, and quickly, since he has been a champion for those suffering from the unethical practices of those lenders who propagated the mortgage fiasco that has ruined so many lives. This provision will put families thousands of dollars in debt to the state, money they don't have and can't get, quashing any hopes they might have of recovering. And all because Republicans wanted to give people with three homes and two boats a tax cut. Disgusting doesn't even cover it.

Triple-murderer had a concealed carry permit

So much for the law-abiding, even-tempered, 2nd Amendment hero fantasy:

Hicks, a Second Amendment rights advocate with a concealed weapons permit, often complained about both Christians and Muslims on his Facebook page. "Some call me a gun toting Liberal, others call me an open-minded Conservative," Hicks wrote.

Imad Ahmad, who lived in the condo where his friends were killed until Barakat and Mohammed were married in December, said Hicks complained about once a month that the two men were parking in a visitor's space as well as their assigned spot. "He would come over to the door. Knock on the door and then have a gun on his hip saying 'you guys need to not park here,'" said Ahmad, a graduate student in chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill. "He did it again after they got married."

Bolding mine, since the media has apparently determined the fact he was licensed by the state to carry a concealed weapon is only worth a casual mention. We'll give the nut-jobs over at Grass Roots NC a few more hours to concoct their tortured reasoning to show how this doesn't call into question the crime-fighting superhero image they've created of CCW Man.

Exploring NC's gas tax conundrum

It's not as cut-and-dried as you might think:

The gas tax is a major revenue source for transportation projects such as repairing bridges, repaving roadways, and building highways. The failure of the current gas tax (and other transportation funding sources) to support these important public services means that backlogs for both maintenance and repairs projects persist. The state Department of Transportation estimates that North Carolina faces a $60 billion shortfall for transportation improvements through 2040, and that the state needs to come up with $32 billion just to keep the status quo.

I am genuinely conflicted on this issue, and it's doubtful I will be able to find a comfortable position on either side. I also find little comfort in the fact that infrastructure is crumbling all across the country, and not just in North Carolina. In response to a comment I made on Facebook about the regressive nature of the gas tax, Mark Turner made a good point:

Coal Ash Wednesday: The deadly ingredients

Thanks to Physicians for Social Responsibility for outlining the harms:

Arsenic: It has long been known that arsenic, if ingested in very high levels, is deadly. However, lower levels of exposure are also harmful and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea; anemia and decreased production of the white, infection-fighting blood cells; abnormal heart rhythms; blood vessel damage; numbness in the hands and feet; partial paralysis; and decreased vision, even blindness. Repeated low levels of exposure over an extended period of time can produce effects similar to a one-time high level of exposure, and chronic exposure to low levels can cause skin cancer. Arsenic has also been linked to cancers of the lung, bladder, kidney, liver and prostate.

Contaminated drinking water is a primary route of arsenic exposure. Exposure from birth may increase urinary cancer risk much later in life, suggesting that people whose drinking water is contaminated by arsenic from coal ash should be monitored long-term for this cancer, even if they stop drinking the contaminated water.

I know a lot of environmental advocates who are energetic as all get-out, but lacking somewhat in the details. Energy is important, but you need some basic factual tools at your disposal if you want to persuade others the danger is real. Understanding the toxics involved and their deleterious effect on our health is likely the best tool you could wield in that effort:

The crossroads of poverty and poor student performance

A concerned teacher speaks out:

The strong correlation between poverty and academic achievement has been noted for decades. Nutrition, stress, lack of health-care and housing stability all play a role in brain development and student learning. This is not disputed, yet as educators, we largely ignore poverty and instead focus on how to better teach our students. No amount of revised lesson plans or new curriculum will remove the impact of poverty on student learning.

Taking a stand against low wage poverty is a stand for education. I want to be clear: there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the academic abilities of poor children. In fact, when you remove the stresses created by poverty, academic achievement goes up. There is something wrong with a society and economic system that allows so many of our children to live in poverty.

And one of the biggest problems we have to overcome is ingrained prejudice bolstered by a healthy dose of narcissistic navel-gazing. I got into a very unsettling argument with a handful of normally progressive friends and family recently over the living wage issue. The concerns raised by these folks centered around fairness: "Is it fair to the people who have labored to obtain a college degree or professional certification, only to have someone who didn't even graduate high school come along and get paid $15 per hour?" The argument pretty much fizzled out when I explained how they (as taxpayers) were actually paying part of the wages the employers refused to, via food stamps and other public assistance a $7.25 per hour worker was qualified for. But that didn't address the deeper social schism that caused those feelings of unfairness, a schism that is a direct result of decades of Meritocratic thinking. We're programmed to believe we compete with each other, but, in fact, we are competing with the 1%. And losing.

Tuesday Twitter roundup

The NCGA laser-focused on jobs and the economy:

Um, what? Seriously, what? So, if you're in a 55 mph zone, and the car in in front of you is going 30, you're stuck there. *sigh*

Preserve the Preservation tax credits

For many rural townships, it's the only economic tool they have left:

Last year, Paul Norby, the director of the City-County Planning Department, told the Journal editorial board that the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, using these credits, “has generated $200 million or more in economic investment.”

We’re not alone in benefiting from these credits. For some rural areas in the state, preservation tax credits could play a significant role in spurring economic and community revival. In a lead up to Wednesday’s address, McCrory toured the Hotel Concord on Jan. 30, which local officials hope to restore, and talked about hosting executives who consider investing in the region. “And the first place they want to go to is the center city, to see is there blight or decay or is there a future,” he told The Associated Press.

Republicans like to talk about bringing back old-fashioned values and such, so it's a little confusing why they would casually discard a program that restores historical structures. Their answer, which is becoming a pat response, is for government to "get out of the way" and let private investors do the work. I can tell you with absolute certainty that government is not standing in the way of investments in small towns or historical sections of larger cities. The truth is, those investments are simply waiting for a catalyst, and that catalyst is the government-sponsored refurbishing of key structures that will anchor the revitalization of a district.

Jim Womack puts on his bullying cap over anti-coal ash sign

"No more espresso shots for you!"

Kathy Addison, owner of Kathy’s Java Express in downtown Sanford, says Womack had coffee there on Thursday and after a quick trip to the restroom, entered the kitchen to ask to speak to the owner. Addison, who wasn’t in the cafe at the time, says Womack told her daughter she needed to take the coal ash sign (pictured above) down.

“He said it’d be in our best interest to take it from the window,” she said. “And if we didn’t, we’d lose his business, and he’d make sure we lost other people’s business as well.” Addison’s daughter filed a “communicating threats” complaint to the Sanford Police Department following Thursday’s ordeal.

Good for her, and shame on Womack for making the threat at all, much less to the daughter instead of the owner. Didn't we used to have a "Jackass of the Week" award here? Well, he wins it hands-down.

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