The Locker Room

August 04, 2009

House concurs

Posted by Becki Gray at 7:01 PM

After three hours and fifteen minutes of debate on the budget, the House voted to concur with the conference report on a party-line vote (Ds voting yes; Rs voting no): 65-52.

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94 Degrees and 93% Humidity

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 5:49 PM

But that's not the only thing that has these folks heated up in Gastonia, as the Hands OFF My Health Care - Patients First bus tour continues on its way across and around the state.

Lots of activity and enthusiasm for freedom in health care choice this afternoon in Gastonia, despite the sweltering weather:

And even the oppressive heat can't melt the smiles on these young defenders of freedom—

Onward to Charlotte... and more tour pix tomorrow.

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Better late than never ... unless it has $1 billion in tax hikes

Posted by Becki Gray at 5:29 PM

The budget is the big news today. Copies of the conference report (two volumes, close to 500 pages)  were delivered to legislators' offices this morning about 10:30. Five-and-a-half hours later debate, discussion, and a vote kick off as both bodies convene session at 3:00 p.m. There's not much time for a full study and review.

Senate leaders take a little over an hour to explain and crow about what a good job they did. The Senate vote was 27-17.

The House has barely gotten started with the committee and subcommittee chairs patting themselves on the back and congratulating themselves and each other for a good hour-and-a-half.

The budget spends a little over $19 billion (but when you add in the federal stimulus money, it brings the total spending to $20.4 billion)  and raises $1.4 billion in revenue (some in transfers from other sources and most in new taxes). There's a new tax on income tax for $60,000 earners and up, a 20 percent increase in the sales tax (up a full cent), 10-cent-a-pack increase in cigarette tax (with at least $50 million of the revenue designated for the University Cancer Center), a new tax on digital clickthroughs and ringtones. There are increased taxes on beer, wine, and liquor. (The budget also reduces the amount municipalities get to keep). 

In a nod to the Senate's push for tax reform, the Finance Committees of both the House and Senate are authorized during the interim "to study and recommend legislation to reform North Carolina's sales and income tax structure in order to broaden the tax base and lower the State's tax rates." We'll see.

Here are a few items that I don't like:

  • New restrooms for the elephant exhibit:  $300,000
  • Picnic Shelter at Aycock birthplace:  $86,100
  • Floating dock:  $130,000
  • Drop Out Prevention Grants:  $13 million
  • Coastal Sounds Wind Energy Study;  $300,000
  • The entire tax package and the growth of government.
  • They claim to eliminate 2,044 state positions, but 1,318 are unfilled anyway.
  • They circumvent a portion of the corporate income tax that is supposed to go into a public school building fund to assist local governments with school construction and divert it to the General Fund.  This pushes a shortage on local government, pushing them to increase property taxes after they have already set their budgets.

Here are a few items I like:

  • One-year moratorium on the ABC program that awards schools that meet certain performance standards. They'll study and look at ways to restructure accoubtabiity. I hope they'll look at merit pay for teachers.
  • Eliminating some of the competency testing program.
  • Removing barriers to lateral entry into teaching.
  • Requirement for local boards to inform the public about school report cards and ensure they "receive wide distribution to the local press or otherwise." More transparency is always better.

We'll continue  to comb through the budget in coming days and weeks and will continue to comment.  These are a few quick observations.

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Next stop Charlotte

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 5:05 PM

The Hands Off our Healthcare tour is in Charlotte at 6. If you're in the area come down. We need a big crowd--expecting some MoveOn sleazebaggery. We're at City Plaza 600 E. 4th St.

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Re: Lincolnton

Posted by Dr. Roy Cordato at 4:58 PM

We concountered some pretty intense heckling and disruptions from sypathizers here. Things got pretty heated. Typical leftist tactics pulled right from the Brown Shirts handbook.

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Can A Bi-Partisan Alliance Against Increased Government Spending Occur Again?

Posted by Dr. Troy Kickler at 4:13 PM

With all the talk concerning expanding government programs and increasing taxes, Americans and North Carolinians might want to consider the actions of NC Senator Josiah Bailey in 1937.  He penned a bi-partisan document that has been called "The Conservative Manifesto."  Some historians argue that this document “created momentum for postwar conservatism and a viable” two party competition in North Carolina

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And then there's Lincolnton...

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 3:58 PM

Where the idea of government-controlled health care is not sitting so well with some NC citizens, as they listen to AFP NC director Dallas Woodhouse and others on the Hands OFF my Health Care-Patients First tour:

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Movin' right along

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 2:46 PM

Pix from the Hands OFF My Health Care tour of NC:

From Shelby, NC:

and Greensboro, NC:

More to come from Lincolnton, NC & elsewhere soon.

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Hackney: We're raising the sales tax. Get over it.

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 12:52 AM

There is no other way to interpret House Speaker Joe Hackney's comments about the 1-cent sales tax increase.

Don't forget that sales tax "revenue" will be used to fund his $13 million pet project, dropout prevention grants.

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The federal government will eventually default on its debt

Posted by George Leef at 12:25 AM

That's the prediction of economist Jeffrey Rogers Hummel here.

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Hands OFF! My Health Care message resonates throughout NC

Posted by Dr. Karen Y. Palasek at 12:22 AM

Here are a few pictures from some of the first towns on the AFP NC Hands OFF My Health Care--Patients First! bus tour that is traveling all week throughout the state of NC. For those NC citizens already past their health-care expiration date, it's an especially important message.

The Americans for Prosperity bus continues its tour of NC all week; watch for many more pictures of citizens crowding around to hear the message from speakers and health care activists—

From Hendersonville:

And Asheville:


and Winston-Salem:

More to come all week long--stay tuned! corrected

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Appeals court rules against Calabria

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 12:13 AM

A unanimous three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower-court ruling against Judge Ann Marie Calabria.

Calabria had sued the State Board of Elections for refusing to provide her with public financing "rescue funds" to counteract a campaign ad favoring her opponent in the 2006 election to the N.C. Supreme Court.

You'll find this ruling and other new Appeals Court rulings here.

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The Fed-- we'd be better off without it

Posted by George Leef at 11:48 AM

So argues economics professor George Selgin, who has spent decades studying monetary systems. Read his argument in this Christian Science Monitor piece.

Perhaps our greatest blunder of all was in allowing the federal government to monopolize our monetary system. Under the Constitution, it was not supposed to. Sound money facilitates economic growth and inhibits the growth of government.

The conventional wisdom is that a modern economy needs "modern" monetary management by supposed experts like Greenspan and Bernanke. I'm delighted to see that pernicious belief coming under fire in publications like the CSM. The country would be far better off without the Fed.

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GOP leaders slam budget deal

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:47 AM

Republican legislative leaders criticized the state's new budget deal during their regular weekly news conference.

Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Minority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, emphasized several times that they've not seen details of the plan they're expected to address soon. Details they have learned cause them plenty of heartburn, especially plans to raise almost $1 billion a year in taxes.

Click play below to hear their 29:31 briefing, which also includes a statement from Sen. Eddie Goodall, R-Union, about the state's application for federal education funds.

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Quick budget hits

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 10:44 AM

Taking some vacation time to look through the budget, the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly have put a collective finger in the collective eye of North Carolina voter and taxpayers.

  • The bill and money report made it online late last night/early this morning and voting starts this afternoon. So much for transparency and open government.
  • When counting receipts and expenditures in a consistent way, the budget would spend $100 million more than was actually spent in FY2008-09. The budget counts $19 million, but we need to add back in $1.4 billion in federal money to get a true comparison with the $20.3 billion final expenditures for the year ended June 30
  • Adding programs, such as those Terry pointed out in education, expanding SCHIP enrollment, and bringing the annual gift to the Kannapolis Research Campus to $22.5 million.
  • To spend as much as they want, legislators are pulling $1 billion a year more in sales taxes,draining $200 million more from businesses and high-earning individuals, adding $90 million in yearly taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, and killing a subsector of the economy with click-through tax on Amazon affiliates and others who direct traffic to large retail sites, adding $55 million in new fees (some of which may be justified)

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Obamanomics is great ... for rent seekers

Posted by Jon Sanders at 09:59 AM


Lobbying expenditures are up in the second quarter of the Obama administration ... In a graphic on page A6 of the February 13 edition, not available online, the Washington Post reported that “A Washington Post analysis found that more than 90 organizations hired lobbyists to specifically influence provisions of the massive stimulus bill.” The graphic showed that the number of newly registered lobbying clients had peaked on the day after Obama’s inauguration and continued to grow as the bill worked its way through both houses of Congress....

And the beat goes on: The congressional newspaper The Hill reports, “Lobbyists lining up for shot at climate bill.”

And that of course is why Patrick Appel reports at the Andrew Sullivan blog that Washington is the hottest city for job-seekers these days.

If you want money flowing to the companies with good lobbyists and powerful congressmen, then all these spending and regulatory bills may accomplish something. But we should all recognize that we’re taking money out of the competitive, individually directed part of society and turning it over to the politically controlled sector. Politicians rather than consumers will pick winners and losers.

Just as important, businesses will devote their time, money, and brainpower to influencing decisions made in Washington rather than to developing better products and delivering them to consumers. The tragedy is that the most important factor in America’s economic future — in raising everyone’s standard of living — is not land, or money, or computers; it’s human talent. And an increasing part of the human talent at America’s companies is being diverted from productive activity to protecting the company from political predation. With every spending program and every new regulation, the parasite economy sucks in another productive enterprise. Do we really want the best brains at companies from General Motors and General Electric (this quarter’s biggest lobbyist) to Google and Goldman Sachs focused on working Washington rather than serving consumers?

The highlighted portion is extremely important; it's why the late, great economist Julian Simon called humans The Ultimate Resource.

As for frenetic lobbying (i.e., rent seeking) being a deplorable byproduct of the deplorable Obama approach to governance, have no fear, the media are dutifully falling in line. Why, special interests working to massage legislation (to say nothing of legislators!) till it serves their own selfish ends is good this year, we're told.

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Utopia or freedom?

Posted by George Leef at 09:59 AM

In his column today, Thomas Sowell observes that we have to choose: do we want freedom, or do we want a procession of governmental programs aimed to creating utopia for us? Not that we'll actually get to utopia, of course -- just more and more regulations and mandates and taxes imposed by politicians who always have the very best of intentions.

The Founders tried to keep government power limited to avoid this. They understood that if politicians have a free hand, they'll whittle away at our liberty until it's just an empty slogan.

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Public school budget nonsense

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 07:43 AM

As per the committee money report:

1. $13 million (R) for dropout prevention grants

2. $3.6 million (R) for Learn and Earn expansion

3. $2.5 million (R) for District and School Transformation

4. $1.2 million (R) for Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy

5. $2 million (R) for NC Virtual School expansion

6. $4.4 million (NR) for The Collaborative Project (includes $2.3 million (NR) for the Public School Forum to administer the project)

7. $2.1 million (NR) for appropriations to Non-Public School Organizations (pass-through funds)

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:45 AM

Today's Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Karen Welsh's report on the potential impact of legislation designed to shore up the Beach Plan coastal property insurance program.

John Hood's Daily Journal examines the Wake County school system's decision to flout o Child Left Behind rules in student assignment.

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Eminent Domain Demise

Posted by Becki Gray at 06:15 AM

Even though House Bill 1268 has 80 co-sponsors (of 120 members), the House has never taken a vote on it and after last night, it looks like it won't, at least not this session. 

Bill sponsor and House Minority Leader, Rep. Skip Stam, R Wake, attempted to move House Bill 1268, Eminent Domain forward on the House floor. The bill has been sitting in the House Judiciary II committee since early July, when it was sent back to committee after a heated debate on the House floor.   Last week Stam was successful in at least getting the bill scheduled for a hearing by a small subcommittee of the J II committee.  But two meetings were canceled last week; on Thursday and again on Friday when Committee chair, Rep Rick Glazier, D Cumberland, was held up in budget negotiations and couldn’t make it to either meeting.

Then Monday night on the House floor, Stam again tried a procedural move to get the bill heard.  Speaker Joe Hackney, D Orange,  apparently had other plans for protecting property rights and ruled Stam’s efforts out of order, Stam made a motion to overrule the Speaker but his motion failed on a 62-48 vote (not surprisingly along party lines).

With time running out on this session, looks like a constitutional amendment to protect private property from government takeover by eminent domain is once again, off the table.   

Government takeover seems to be everywhere – no protection from eminent domain takings, a smoking ban, municipalities free to annex expensive energy requirements and if we’re not careful, a takeover of health care.  What’s next?  Perhaps a better question - what's left? 

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