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Will We Rub Our Hands And Wait, Or Will We Act?

Having grown up in a working class family where money was always short and we sometimes went without, I am particularly drawn to writing about how best to help the poor. That’s why I read this column distributed to the Herald-Sun by the progressives at N.C. Policy Watch and written by Sarah Jacobson of  the North Carolina Alliance for Health. Sarah laments what she sees as lack of access to healthy foods and laments as well that a legislative committee failed to live up to her expectations.

Recently, state elected official started the conversation on this issue through the work of the House Study Committee on Food Desert Zones. Unfortunately, however, with only four meetings and an incredible volume of complex information, that effort concluded with little in the way of tangible next steps and only weak legislative suggestions. We need to continue to educate our elected officials and our communities about food insecurity and the policies that can change things for the better.

The bottom line: Spirited conversation on this issue needs to continue. Let’s help that process along by letting our community and state leaders know that we care about the health of our kids and communities and that healthy food should not be a luxury.

I won’t quibble here with Sarah’s data or definition of who is food “insecure” and why, but I reject her notion that helping the vulnerable is the responsibility of a narrowly defined legislative committee. Rather than spend time rubbing our hands at committee meetings of this sort, let’s act with boldness to tangibly help lift people in these circumstances out of their problem.

We do that by enacting economic policies that we know, based on years of data, are correlated with economic growth: growth that leads to more job opportunities and easier/greater access to more and more products and services. The General Assembly is to commended for taking steps over the past three years to do just that: lowering the tax burden and reforming the tax code, paring back job-killing rules, and beginning the process of more energy production and extraction. I know from my life experience that my family’s situation improved when my father had more opportunity in the workplace. Let’s hope more legislators listen to John Hood discuss the data on which policies lead to growth, and which do not. 

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“I think that is extremely disingenuous and extremely inappropriate”

Carolina Journal’s Barry Smith reports today on disturbing information about a possible plan to disrupt voting in North Carolina.

As early voting opens for the 2014 general election, an attorney representing the state in the lawsuit fighting state election law reforms is seeking further information regarding statements made earlier this month by the Rev. William Barber at the state NAACP convention.

The statements, according to a memo by Butch Bowers, indicate that Barber urged those attending the convention to take people who have not registered to vote to early voting sites and transport registered voters to their wrong precincts on election day. Both practices — same-day registration at early voting locations and out-of-precinct voting — were prohibited by the General Assembly’s 2013 election law.

Snip. And then:

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, who helped author the state’s new voting laws, said he had heard reports of Barber’s comments. “If indeed, any group is more concerned with causing havoc to the election process than simply getting people registered to vote, I think that is extremely disingenuous and extremely inappropriate,” Lewis said.

Lewis said those moves, along with the late-breaking court orders, could create confusion at election time.

“I believe that is intended often to create confusion and uncertainty,” Lewis said. “It’s like my mom and dad always said, if you spend your time on how to do things right, you’d have a lot more success than if you tried to beat the system.”

The Bowers memo said that the comments were made Oct. 11 during the state NAACP’s convention in Fayetteville.

If true, this effort is reprehensible. Any effort to create problems is a disservice to every voter and minimizes the hard-fought and valiant efforts of those who, decades ago, fought very serious and very real discrimination at the ballot box. Sad.

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Why Do We Penalize Savings & Investment? We Should Encourage It.

One of the ways we become self-sufficient and able to pass on the fruits of our lifetime of work is to save and invest. Yet the North Carolina tax code discourages savings and investment through the tax code. JLF’s Roy Cordato explained in his recent Spotlight report.

In 2013 North Carolina instituted sweeping tax reform and began the process of making its tax system more efficient and more consistent with liberty.

There are important areas of the tax code that still need to be reformed, and the treatment of capital gains is one of those areas.

Capital gains taxes penalize saving, investment, and therefore entrepreneurship.

They do this by imposing a second layer of taxation on equity investment.

The most straightforward way to end this bias is to eliminate the tax on capital gains completely.

If abolition of the capital gains tax is considered to be too difficult a task politically, then North Carolina could take the same approach as the federal government and tax capital gains at a lower rate than ordinary income.

Another approach would be to follow the lead of some other states. For example, South Carolina allows taxpayers to reduce their capital gains by 44 percent before applying the tax, while Wisconsin allows for an exclusion of 30 percent.

Fiscal reformers in the General Assembly are to congratulated for taking on tax reform when previous General Assemblies chose to kick the can down the road. Now it’s time to move ahead with the next step of putting North Carolina back on track with more freedom and more prosperity.

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Stunning Abuse Of Paid Leave For Federal Workers

It’s hard not to become cynical when GAO reports like this one illustrate how hard-earned tax dollars are being used and abused.  The Washington Examiner reports:

The federal government has shelled out more than $700 million in paid leave to more than 57,000 employees who were home from work for time periods stretching from one month to three years, a Government Accountability Office report has found.

In a 62-page report published Monday, the GAO analyzed why so many federal employees were home and getting paid for such long periods of time and they discovered a variety of reasons.

In many cases, employees were home awaiting the outcome of investigations into alleged misconduct and criminal actions. Some racked up paid leave for “physical fitness activities,” and others were away from work seeking professional development. Employees also took paid leave for “recuperation” from overseas work.

Hundreds of federal employees remained at home, collecting a paycheck, for years.

As you work hard today, remember how some of the dollars you’re forking over to the feds is being used. This GAO reports is one of many examples of what happens when government grows to the point where keeping abuse in check is a monumental task.

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“Please.”

Carolina Journal’s Rick Henderson adds perspective to the reporting on benefits received by Hagan family members from two taxpayer-funded grants.

It’s important to put the story into perspective, because the Hagan camp relentlessly deflects and spins, portraying these taxpayer handouts passed around from one family-owned company to another as nothing improper. And — this is the most laughable contention — that the Hagan family somehow received no benefit from nearly a half-million bucks in taxpayer largess.

Please.

JDC, a company co-owned by the three Hagan brothers, applied for and received $250,644 in stimulus dollars to install more efficient lighting and furnaces and place solar panels at its building. JDC leases the building to Plastic Revolutions, a recycling company also owned by … Hagan family members. Once the project was completed, Plastic Revolutions said it expected to save $100,000 in energy costs annually. That’s a benefit it would not have received without the upgrades, which were made possible by federal taxpayers.

Moreover, JDC wound up with a more valuable asset: a modern, energy-efficient manufacturing facility that would bring a higher price if it sold, and a more inviting location for potential new tenants. And, of course, JDC received $137,000 in tax credits — again resulting from the stimulus grant.

The Hagan family could have financed the project by investing its own money, seeking outside investors, going into debt, or draining its own bank accounts. While some of those other sources might have played a role in this project, the Hagans also went, hat in hand, to the government, and we paid for it.

Would JDC have pursued the project without the handouts? The Hagans haven’t said so, at least not to us. But it matters little now. Our money has been spent.

Moral of the story: the bigger the government and the greater its largesse, the more opportunity there is for nonsense like this.

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“The double-dealing didn’t end there.”

You may recall that the federal “stimulus” package was supposed to create jobs by spending astronomical amounts of money on so-called “shovel ready” jobs. Some of the money went into projects for alternative energy. John Hood relates how things went down for one of the grant recipients, Sen. Kay Hagan’s family.

Forget the politics and read the story for what it says about big government.

In 2010, a company called JDC Manufacturing applied to the Energy Office for a $250,644 grant to replace light fixtures and gas furnaces and install rooftop solar panels at a 300,000-square-foot building it owned in Reidsville. The total cost of the project, JDC stated, would be $438,627, of which 57 percent would come from the taxpayers and the rest, $187,983, from JDC itself.

The company was owned by Kay Hagan’s husband Chip and two of his brothers. In the application, JDC claimed that the building’s infrastructure was outdated and that current energy costs had “prevented the tenant from growing their business as desired due to the energy operating costs.” Who was this cost-constrained tenant of the JDC building? A company also owned by Hagan family members called Plastic Revolutions, as Carolina Journal’s Don Carrington has reported. Chip Hagan serves on its board.

The double-dealing didn’t end there. In its application, JDC stated that its initial estimate of the cost of installing solar panels on the building were “based on quotes or commercially available prices” but that “the final project design and installation work will undergo an open bid once awardees are notified” about the status of the grant.

The same week that JDC submitted the application, however, Chip Hagan and his son Tilden founded yet another company, Solardyne, later renamed Green State Power. Somehow, this inexperienced company managed to win the contract to install the solar panels on JDC’s building, no doubt through an “open bid.” Interestingly, JDC had included its conflict-of-interest policy in its application for public funding. “Employees are to avoid any conflict of interest, even the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the policy stated. “The appearance of a conflict of interest can cause embarrassment to the company, jeopardizing the credibility of the company. Any conflict of interest, potential conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest should be reported to your supervisor immediately.”

 

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Carolina Journal: Hagan Firm Keeps Stimulus Project Savings, Sends None to Taxpayers

Don Carrington continues his investigation into ‘stimulus’ grant money received by Sen. Kay Hagan’s family.

DC Manufacturing, a company co-owned by Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s husband Charles “Chip” Hagan, lowered the total cost of a 2010 stimulus-funded energy project but kept all of the savings, sending none back to taxpayers who had funded the stimulus grant.

The company’s original application stated the total project would cost $438,627, and said JDC would contribute “leveraged funds” amounting to $187,983, or 43 percent of the total. As the project reached completion, however, JDC revised the total budget downward by $114,519 and applied all the savings to its share, keeping all the taxpayer funding.

Also, JDC’s decision to hire Solardyne/Green State Power, a separate company co-owned by Chip Hagan and the Hagans’ son Tilden, to install a portion of the stimulus-funded energy project at the JDC building appears to violate a conflict-of-interest provision that was included as part of the original application for the stimulus grant.

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Proving That Some People Will Do Anything For Power

From the Texas Tribune comes the latest installment in the outrage over Wendy Davis’ approach to trying to win the governorship of Texas. No, her campaign isn’t sorry one bit — the campaign is elated.

The pollster for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis defended her controversial TV ad Sunday, saying it’s working as intended despite widespread criticism that using the image of an empty wheelchair in an attack ad on a disabled candidate was mean-spirited and unfair.

Davis pollster Joel Benenson, who advised Barack Obama in both of his presidential races, said the ad underscored the theme they’ve been hammering on for months: that Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott is an “insider” who sides with the rich and powerful over average Texans.

Nauseating.

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N.C. Supreme Court To Decide Opportunity Scholarship Appeal

North Carolina House Speaker Pro Tem Paul “Skip” Stam of Wake County issued the following news release Friday.  For decades Stam has been a champion of providing parents with more freedom to choose where and how their children are educated. To that end, he is also the champion of the Opportunity Scholarship program, which provides low-income parents with an option to send their kids to a private school that better serves their needs. Progressives are using the legal system to try and take away this opportunity.

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North Carolina Supreme Court to Decide on Opportunity Scholarship Appeal

Raleigh, NC – Today the North Carolina Supreme Court on its own initiative issued an order stating that it will take responsibility for the appeal of a decision by a Wake County judge regarding the Opportunity Scholarships. The case was pending before the NC Court of Appeals. The NC Supreme Court will now decide the case. All parties should be delighted with this development because the case was ultimately headed for the NC Supreme regardless of the decision by the NC Court of Appeals. This will expedite the decision regarding this appeal case.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals previously issued an order that allowed the scholarship money to be disbursed to the 1,878 applicants who accepted Opportunity Scholarships through the Opportunity Scholarship Program. The provision for new applicants for the spring semester of 2015 is still on hold. These parents and students need to know before the end of this year whether they will be able to attend the school that best suits their needs.

We are grateful for the decision. We thank the nearly 300 schools that continue to work with parents to allow students to attend the school of their choice while waiting for the distribution of scholarship money. We remain confident the Opportunity Scholarship program will be permitted to expand, allowing more parents to send their children to the school of their choice.

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7 Counties Want Voters To Raise The Sales Tax Rate

For some government officials, there is a constant effort to expand government and impose higher taxes and fees to pay for it all. Writing today at CarolinaJournal.com, JLF’s Sarah Curry profiles the seven North Carolina counties that are asking voters to raise the sales tax rate by 1/4 cent to pay for bigger government.

While many local governments claim they will collect the tax for a specific purpose, that is not permissible by law. Any revenue generated from the local-option, quarter-cent sales tax is considered general revenue and can be spent on anything in the county’s budget.

County commissioners typically pledge to spend the tax revenue on a specific area of the budget, but there is no legally binding way to ensure that will happen. Rather, each governing board can decide where to spend the money — regardless of the promises made to voters in the referendum campaign.

While knowing the money cannot be earmarked, each of the six counties pushing referendums on the November ballot has listed items that county officials have decided warrant a sales tax increase. Below is each county’s reasoning. But remember: Regardless of what county officials say, there is no guarantee about where the money actually will be spent.

 

 

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