Multi-million dollar bond referendums and tax increases will not repair the damage done by years of inadequate school facilities planning. With construction and labor costs rising, massive school building programs, such as the one proposed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), will exert a crippling tax burden on local communities.
In response to a widely cited study by the American Federation of Teachers, Harvard education professor Caroline Hoxby recently released a study of the academic proficiency of charter school students. Hoxby finds charter schools comparing favorably with regular public schools: "charter students are 5.2 percent more likely to be proficient in reading and 3.2 percent more likely to be proficient in math on their state’s exams."
Freedom Budget 2005 continues the tradition of JLF alternative budgets that revise the governor’s Continuation and Expansion budgets. If an item is not included here, the authors accept the governor’s proposal. This includes all pay raises for state employees and some tax changes. The specific recommendations detailed in this report are made as additions or subtractions from Gov. Easley’s budget.
States have three direct policy levers to control Medicaid growth: eligibility, services, and payments. North Carolina’s mix of policies has led to some of the highest costs in the South, but the Blue Ribbon Commission on Medicaid Reform would make it even costlier. Tennessee and Mississippi, the two Southern states with higher per capita costs in 2000, have since made significant changes. Georgia and Virginia present different ways to reduce costs, while a 2001 report for the General Assembly presented largely unexploited savings.
N.C. is currently considering important modifications to its tort law, especially its application to medical malpractice. Proponents say it's the only way to ensure quality medical care remains affordable in N.C. Opponents say fluctuations in interest rates and the "insurance cycle" in general account for premium changes, and that tort reform would imperil the health of North Carolinians by "subsidizing" negligent physicians.
Most Americans agree that public education is in trouble. While legislators and educators have tried to fix failing schools by increasing funding, expanding regulations, or intensifying requirements for teachers, these changes have only served to patch a broken system. Public education in America needs radical reinvention, and charter schools provide an effective and powerful way to transform the educational system.
More than a decade after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, disability policy in the United States remains fraught with uncertainty, dashed hopes, and contradictions. While most persons living with disabilities today have an unprecedented quality of life — largely the product of medical and technological advancements that would have seemed more the realm of science fiction than science fact a generation or two ago — they are also experiencing some surprisingly negative trends.
North Carolina has now joined many other states and the federal government in debating solutions to the problem of rising costs in medical malpractice insurance. Evidence suggests that flaws in our tort laws and procedures are a major part of the problem. Proposed state legislation to cap “pain and suffering” awards and implement other reforms represents a good starting point, but state lawmakers should also look at a “loser pays” rule and judicial oversight of expert testimony to reduce the impact of junk science and quack medicine on jury deliberations.
The state legislature is currently considering the idea of "decoupling" North Carolina's income tax code from the federal tax code in order to avoid implementation of several tax reductions associated with a federal economic-stimulus package. But North Carolina's weakened economy desperately needs the $258 million boost that adjusting state taxes on business and personal investment would provide. Policymakers could offset any revenue loss by reducing spending.
Gov. Mike Easley's proposed budget adjustments for FY 2002-03 help to frame the coming fiscal debate in North Carolina. The plan relies primarily on increasing revenues — including more than $400 million in tax hikes, $250 million from a theoretical state lottery, and $210 million from raiding the state‘s Highway Trust Fund — rather than on budget savings. And contrary to the governor's assertion, his plan would increase state spending in the midst of a fiscal emergency.
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