The Locker Room

April 06, 2009

Notes from the Natural and Economic Resources Budget

Posted by Becki Gray at 11:15 PM

The Senate Appropriations Committees met this afternoon to introduce their budget proposals.  The Natural and Economic Resources Committee includes Agriculture Services, Dept of Labor, Dept of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)with 43% of the budget, Dept of Commerce, NC Biotech Center and the Rural Economic Development Center. The Senate proposes a $484 million budget for 2009-2010.

There are three key strategies with the Senate budget:

Management flexibility provides the agencies with the ability to manage a certain reduction amount in a manner best suited to the agency.  Over $2 million in NER budget.

They eliminate continuation budget increases by reducing an increase included in the Continutation Budget for the following fiscal year.  The Senate budget does not decrease the amount an agency currently has to operate.

The Senate proposes a fundshift of positions to receipt support and directs agencies (either federal, grant, or fees) to support what was previously funded out of the General Fund.  This saves the General Fund moneywithout eliminating filled positions.

To fundshift, there are many fee increases (commercial fertilizer, pesticide registration, restaurant inspections, certification fee for nursuries, some veterinary services) and shifts from General Fund funding to receipt supported services (Dept of Labor Apprenticeships, radiation protection agents, legal specialists, deputy commissioners and program assistants)  As in the governor's budget, the Senate eliminates unfilled positions, about 95, many that have been vacant for  years. 

They divert money that is supposed to go into a scrap tire disposal fee and put it in the General Fund and authorize an assessment on primary forest products like softwood and hardwood sawtimber, pulp wood and cypress products.

There's a 2% reduction for 27 Grassroots Science programs that include the Carolina Raptor Center, Discovery Place,  Greensboro Children's Museum, Imagination Station and the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute.

The Dept of Commerce will scrap plans for a new executive airplane, transfer funding for a Korean office to the Ports Authority, creates another corporate giveaway program with $3 million for a Small Business Assitance Fund, another fund for "micropolitan" cities to assist with economic development projects and the Rural Economic Development Commissions will get $3 million.  They take $4 million out of the One NC Fund and redistribute it: $1million for marketing NC as a business destination, $2 million for the One NC Small Business Fund and $1 million for the NC Minority Support Center.  Once again there is no mention of a reduction of the corporate tax rate to provide an attactive business climate for all businesses.

There will be closer looks at the entire Senate proposal over the next few days but the thing that seems clear so far is that even in this tough economy, legislators continue to chip away at the problem with transfers and diversions and eliminating vacant postions while ignoring the real answers found in setting priorites and reforming the way government spends tax revenue.  Tough times call for tough decisions.  So far, the decisions, just like the budget, are pretty flabby.



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RE: Education budget

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 7:41 PM

I would like to think that the proposed reduction in funds for dropout prevention grants - from $6.7 million in the Governor's budget to $1 million in the Senate budget - had something to do with my latest evaluation of the grants. We're going in the right direction, legislators.

On the other hand, I am very concerned about the possible transfer of $125 million of Corporate Income Tax funds (for school renovation and construction) to the State Public School Fund (for public school operating expenses).

In other news, Bill Harrison, State Board of Education Chairman and CEO [of something or other], isn't happy about the Senate budget. In a press release, Harrison says,

I have major concerns that the Senate’s budget would invest $300 million less than the Governor’s K-12 public schools budget. Eliminating 6,200 teachers, forcing children into larger classes, and limiting the ability of public schools to provide needed services is the wrong direction for North Carolina.

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Education budget

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 4:32 PM

First pass on education section of NC Budget before Senate appropriations subcommittees.

  • Net K-12 savings: $615 million, 7.5%
  • Net CC savings: $12.7 million, 1.2%
  • Net UNC savings: $35 million, 1.2%

Some good news in K-12, including elimination of 300 positions at DPI by FY2011.

Prisoners no longer get free classes from community colleges. Customized training gets another $500,000 each year to subsidize businesses.

UNC system loses $70 million through a "management flexibility reduction" but funding of financial aid continues through Escheats Fund, the Kannapolis campus gets another $3 million recurring, and the School of Filmmaking at the School of the Arts gets another $1 million each year - half of it recurring. The Senate continues to lard up UNC.

More on Twitter now and here later.

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Re: A 22nd-century education

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 4:15 PM

Why not just go for a 23rd Century Education? If we train somebody to be Scotty now, maybe the transporter beams will become reality sooner.

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Newspaper Finds OSHA "Illogical"

Posted by Jeff A. Taylor at 4:03 PM

And all it took was for a man to die.

Really quite unreal and sad set of circumstances led to The Buffalo News being fined $31,500 in connection with a fatal fall suffered by a News reporter out covering a story.

Of course OSHA is wrong to find fault with the paper, but the feds were merely applying the logic that had been steadily working its way through legislation and the courts lo these many years. That thinking holds that an employer always and forever should foresee and mitigate all possible risks an employee might encounter during the course of performing their job.

Far from illogical, even if crazed.

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Annexation Reform: A Bipartisan Failure

Posted by Daren Bakst at 2:31 PM

As much as real annexation reform is needed and the grassroots are making a difference, politicians are doing a lot of talking about reform, but not much else.

The Republicans like to claim that they are for real annexation reform.  Yet recent evidence proves otherwise.

The worst gubernatorial candidate on annexation reform by far was the Republican candidate, Pat McCrory.

Who is the only Senator to have introduced a comprehensive and real annexation reform bill (SB 494)?  That would be Senator Shaw (D-Cumberland).

The bill was introduced a month ago, and guess how many Senate Republicans have signed onto this bill?  You guessed it, absolutely none!  The Democrats are no better in terms of sign-ons--not one Democrat has signed onto SB 494.

On the House side:

Both Republican and Democrats have introduced a House version of Shaw's bill (HB 645).  The bill has a paltry 10 sponsors.

Other bills that exist are the League/Rand bills (SB 472 and HB 727).  These bills don't address any of the needed reforms: municipliaties wouldn't have to provide meaningful services, there would be no oversight over municipalities in the annexation process, and there would be no vote.  Obviously, these bills are a joke. 

It is worth noting that HB 727 (the House version of the League/Rand bill) also has 10 sponsors: 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans--a bipartisan insult to anyone interested in annexation reform.

There are other sham bills, like Clodfelter's SB 711 that is sponsored by two Democrats, Clodfelter and Swindell, and one Republican, Senator Hartsell.  This bill actually would make it expressly clear that municipalities don't have to provide water and sewer to annexation victims.

There are a few champions in the legislature on annexation reform on both sides of the aisle--it seems everyone else is too interested in politics.

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A 22nd-century education

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 2:00 PM

I am not Alfie Kohn's biggest fan, but he deserves kudos for skewering educators' fixation with "21st-century skills."

Essentially, we can take whatever objectives or teaching strategies we happen to favor and, merely by attaching a label that designates a future time period, endow them (and ourselves) with an aura of novelty and significance. Better yet, we instantly define our critics as impediments to progress. If this trick works for the adjective “21st-century,” imagine the payoff from ratcheting it up by a hundred years.
Kohn parodies the 21-century skills folk, declaring that it is time for a "22nd-century skills" movement. Very funny.

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Transparency in N.C. budget issues

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:42 PM

As N.C. Senate leaders prepare to roll out their budget plans this afternoon, Joe Coletti is touting the benefits of transparency in budgeting.

Coletti discussed budget issues and government transparency during a presentation today to the John Locke Foundation's Shaftesbury Society.

Click play below to hear Coletti contrast his use of federal stimulus/bailout money in the JLF "Back to Basics" budget with the uses Gov. Beverly Perdue recommends.

3:50 p.m. update: Watch the entire 1:00:34 recording by clicking the play button below.

You'll find other John Locke Foundation video presentations here.

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Re: American and French royalty

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 10:24 AM

I thought that link was going to take me to a clandestine meeting between the president and Jerry Lewis.

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American royalty meets French royalty

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:56 AM


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Price tag of public records requests

Posted by David N. Bass at 09:50 AM

Charlotte officials say a public records request from a school board candidate in 2007 cost the city $61,014.91. The candidate never picked up the documents, prompting the city to ask whether the request was in the public interest.

The city attorney estimated that it cost another $2,000 to compile data for the above linked Charlotte Observer story on the request.

Such records appear to be the exception rather than the rule:

Ran Coble, executive director for the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research, pointed out that such extensive requests are rare. While the potential for abuse exists, especially during elections, most people ask for much smaller amounts of information.

“Ninety-nine percent of the time it's more of a short request – one day, one conversation,” he said.

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Recommended reading: Betts on the Atkinson lawsuit

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 07:59 AM

Jack Betts examines "how North Carolina got in the position of paying two different heads of the state schools system" in this Charlotte Observer column. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson (now my friend on Facebook, hooray!) and Executive Director and Senior Counsel for the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law Bob Orr filed a lawsuit on Friday to resolve various conflicts over public school governance.

Watch the video of their press conference here.

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Duncan et al withheld evaluation of DC voucher program

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 07:18 AM

From an editorial in the Wall Street Journal:

It's bad enough that Democrats are killing a program that parents love and is closing the achievement gap between poor minorities and whites. But as scandalous is that the Education Department almost certainly knew the results of this evaluation for months.

Voucher recipients were tested last spring. The scores were analyzed in the late summer and early fall, and in November preliminary results were presented to a team of advisers who work with the Education Department to produce the annual evaluation. Since Education officials are intimately involved in this process, they had to know what was in this evaluation even as Democrats passed (and Mr. Obama signed) language that ends the program after next year.
... and so much for transparency ...
Mr. Duncan's office spurned our repeated calls and emails asking what and when he and his aides knew about these results. We do know the Administration prohibited anyone involved with the evaluation from discussing it publicly. You'd think we were talking about nuclear secrets, not about a taxpayer-funded pilot program. A reasonable conclusion is that Mr. Duncan's department didn't want proof of voucher success to interfere with Senator Dick Durbin's campaign to kill vouchers at the behest of the teachers unions.

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Joe Klein puckers up again

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:39 AM

Joe Klein believes in marijuana legalization. Fine. That’s not the issue of interest to me in this blog entry.

What does interest me is the way Klein responds to a president who holds the opposite view.

Had George W. Bush “dismissed the legalization question with a simple ‘No,’” Klein undoubtedly would have responded with a snide column referencing Bush’s history of alcohol abuse and rumors of past drug use.

Klein’s reaction to a “simple no” from President Obama?

This was a rare instance of Barack Obama reacting reflexively, without attempting to think creatively, about a serious policy question.

I could make a bad joke about Joe Klein wanting to blow more than just a joint … but I won’t.

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It figures

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:37 AM

While there’s no evidence that President Obama listens to economists who understand the ways government can hurt the economy, we learn from TIME that the Obama administration places great faith in the “behavioral economists” who look for ways to help the government control people’s actions.

Some call the notion libertarian paternalism.

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You need only one lesson

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:36 AM

Another Business Week article contains the following subheadline in its print version:
Obama’s new tax credits will be a boon for preparers — and a likely stimulus for fraud

While it’s entirely possible that the people who designed these tax credits hoped to help tax preparers, it’s not very likely that anyone wanted to “stimulate” fraud.

Still, the potential for fraud should have been one of the factors addressed in developing these new credits. The issue would have been addressed if anyone had bothered to apply the one lesson in Henry Hazlitt’s classic Economics in One Lesson:

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

Thomas Sowell calls this “thinking beyond stage one.”

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A recipe for failure

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:35 AM

Mises warned us that “Every socialist is a disguised dictator.” I thought of that quip when I saw the cartoon that accompanied an article in the latest Business Week. You won’t see the illustration in the online version, but you will read the following:
Who is running General Motors? Is it Frederick (Fritz) A. Henderson, the GM veteran that the Obama administration chose to replace Richard Wagoner Jr.? Or is it Team Obama?

The cartoon shows Henderson in the driver’s seat, casting a worried glance at the president in the back seat. Obama, meanwhile, is pointing for Henderson to make a left turn (nice touch), while holding his right hand just inches away from the steering wheel.

It’s too bad “Team Obama” will not have any better ideas for running GM than it has for reviving the economy.

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Today's Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:33 AM

The week's first Carolina Journal Online exclusive features Don Carrington's report on the state's possible conversion of the Lake Mattamuskeet Lodge into a bed-and-breakfast inn that would compete with the private sector.

John Hood's Daily Journal examines North Carolina's system of targeted corporate tax breaks in light of the current federal bailout mania.

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