The Southern Appalachian Mountain Initiative (SAMI) is a consortium of eight Southeastern states, including North Carolina, and several federal agencies. It is now beginning to publish its research, more than a decade in the making, and will likely help to shape the debate on air quality for years. State policymakers should be cautious in interpreting SAMI data and analyses, however, due to troubling signs that it may not be looking at both sides of the regulatory equation.
Supporters of the so-called "Clean Smokestacks" bill now under consideration by the state legislature are citing a study they claim proves that the legislation would save the lives of a thousand North Carolinians annually. In fact, the study says no such thing. Its subject matter bears little relationship to the bill's likely impact on North Carolina, which would be limited because most power-plant emissions affecting the state's air quality originate outside North Carolina.
Since it was proposed by Gov. Jim Hunt in 1993, Smart Start has generated statewide and even national attention for its intriguing promise of combining public and private resources to boost educational achievement through early intervention. But two recent studies, one of its finances and the other of its effectiveness as an educational investment, challenge Smart Start's extravagant claims of success. The program has attracted little support from the private sector, and does not significantly improve the educational attainment of most preschoolers.
Embedded within "clean smokestacks" legislation now moving through the General Assembly is the creation of a new commission to develop state policies to combat global warming. But the scientific issues involved are complex and unsettled. If North Carolina were to try to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions on its own, it would have a trivial impact on global climate but destroy tens of thousands of jobs, particularly in the state's faltering manufacturing sector.
Author Doug Bandow looks at the ways in which government intervention into the provision of electric power has harmed consumers, and he recommends ways to make the system more competitive. (62 pages-not available online.)
The North Carolina House is debating its version of a 2001-03 state budget this week. Although imposing only a $6 million tax hike in contrast to the $233 million tax increase included in the Senate budget House leaders still managed to increase General Fund spending by 4.4 percent in the coming fiscal year, relying on increased collections of delinquent taxes, interagency transfers, and debt-service savings to balance the books. Now the budget battle really begins.
The American Lung Association's recent report on ozone fueled a media frenzy in North Carolina, with repeated suggestions that the air in the Triangle and Charlotte was "more polluted than New York City's." The truth is far different. Due to a misleading grading system and a faulty and selective reading of data, the ALA report provides little useful information to North Carolinians about the quality of the air they breathe, and falsely suggests that pollution is increasing.
Gov. Mike Easley and the General Assembly face half-billion-dollar budget deficits (at least) for FY 2000-01 and FY 2001-02. But the problem need not become a crisis. State leaders now have an opportunity to restructure government programs and rethink state responsibilities. Budget savings previously recommended by Locke analysts would yield nearly $600 million this year and $743 million next year enough to close the gap without raising taxes or increasing state debt.
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