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A word of warning

fireThere was a report this morning of arson fires at several black churches
that gave me a flashback to the summer of 1996, when I was still managing editor of The Herald-Sun in Durham.

From June to September of that year there were hysterical reports of huge waves of fires set at black churches by white supremacists. All the predictable race-baiting organizations, and the media, got in on the act.

President Clinton gave a national speech about it, and talked about all the black churches that had burned during his childhood in Arkansas. But an Arkansas newspaper did some real reporting (rare even then) and found that there were no black churches burned at all during Clinton’s childhood, a period he claimed in his speech to “remember” with anguish.

Soon it became evident that this was largely a hoax pushed by groups that wanted to create a racial firestorm, so to speak, that would benefit Clinton at a crucial point in his presidency.

In reality, the incidence of church fires had not gone up. They were occurring pretty much at the same rate as they had for many years, and at black AND white churches.

Those who had claimed victimhood and accused white supremacists of the acts suddenly changed their story. One even said, after many irresponsible accusations, “We think that epidemic or not, even one church torched because of racial hatred is one too many.” A more accurate caricature of left-wing backfilling after being caught in a lie could not be imagined.

Keep 1996 in mind in the coming weeks. It’s likely the same divisive tactic will be tried again.

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Durham wants me to pay rent on something I already own

screwedI got a letter yesterday from Donald Long, the director of Durham’s Solid Waste Management department. In that letter he gave me, and everyone in Durham, I imagine, the good news that the city would begin, on July 1, charging a $1.50 per month rental fee for those large brown containers you fill with leaves, branches, and grass clippings. But here’s the problem: I bought mine from the city about 10 or 12 years ago.

Here’s what Mr. Long wrote in his letter:

We have one additional change to share with customers who purchased their cart in previous years. Effective July 1, all carts now have a rental fee regardless of past purchase history. This means that yard waste customers who were paying $6 per month ($72 per year) will now be charged an extra $1.50 per month for their cart rental, for a total of $7.50 per month ($90 per year).

Keep in mind that Mr. Long is telling me that he wants to rent me my container, which he readily admits I may have purchased previously.

I mentioned this to Roy Cordato, vice president for research and resident scholar at the John Locke Foundation, and an economist par excellence. “That’s just a property tax,” he exclaimed, pointing out that they wanted to put a rental fee on something that I owned.

And since localities can’t willy nilly create new property taxes without a vote of the local governing body, not to mention without being given the authority by the state legislature, this “rental fee” seems a bit dubious to me.

I have notified my neighbors, via our neighborhood listserv, of this, and have copied a couple of members of the city council.

Now, here’s the kicker. Mr. Long, in response to numerous queries about this policy, wrote in an email to the Trinity Park listserv:

We truly regret the implied financial imposition to subscribers who purchased carts, but once you purchased your cart we still provided replacement and maintenance service for the cart. Every year the cart depreciates and depending on when you purchased your cart you may have gotten the purchase value out of the cart already and we will continue to provide the replacement and maintenance service. The reasons for the changes are twofold. First of all the program had to at least pay for itself since we can’t ask taxpayers who don’t subscribe to supplement the cost and secondly, we had a strong need to change our billing system in order to get all of our subscribers on one payment schedule for the sake of efficiency. I hope I’ve made this understandable, but if not feel free to contact me directly.

My question: Since when did the City of Durham give a whit about asking taxpayers who don’t subscribe to a service to supplement the cost of that service to those who get it? That’s the backbone of politics in Durham.

(Cross-posted from The Locker Room)

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Tax-funded rail spur, costing $24 million, is unused at Global Transpark

Reporting for Carolina Journal, Don Carrington follows up on what happened to the deal with Spirit AeroSystems at the Global TransPark.

When Gov. Mike Easley announced in May 2008 that Wichita, Kan.-based Spirit AeroSystems would open an aircraft component manufacturing plant at the Global TransPark in Kinston, he said the company would create 1,031 jobs within six years, but as of December 2014 the company employed only 375 people.

Spirit has failed to meet its targets even though state and local officials lured the company to North Carolina with a package of financial incentives that, according to an analysis by Triangle Business Journal, could exceed $240 million. TBJ said the Spirit deal ranked just behind the largest incentive deal in state history — $260 million in incentives for the Google data center in Lenoir. The largest component of the Spirit package was a $100 million grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation, the nonprofit grant-making agency that handles North Carolina’s tobacco settlement funds. Spirit also received Job Development Investment Grant and One North Carolina Fund awards from the state.

In addition, state officials built a six-mile-long railroad spur line connecting the Spirit plant to a main rail line, saying the $24 million project was essential to closing the deal with Spirit. Even so, the company hasn’t used the rail spur, saying it was less expensive to transport components from the port at Morehead City to the GTP by truck.

I encourage you to read the entire Carolina Journal story.

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Will They Ever Pay The $3.5 Billion They Owe?

Federal News Radio reports on the continuing problem of federal employees not paying their taxes. 

More than 100,000 employees in the federal workforce owe a total of $3.54 billion in federal taxes, according to 2014 data from the IRS.

Although the number of tax delinquent feds decreased by about 14,000 from 2013, the balance owed in taxes grew by about $2.3 million.

Retired members of the military appeared to be the biggest tax offenders, with a delinquency rate of 4.04 percent in 2014. The rate is calculated by dividing the number of employees who owe taxes by the total number in the workforce.

Civilian employees were a close second with a rate of 3.99 percent. That group owes a collective $1.14 billion in federal taxes.

Among those trying to do something about it is 7th District Congressman David Rouzer.

Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.) introduced earlier this month the No Hires for the Delinquent IRS Act. This bill would prohibit the IRS from hiring new employees until the Treasury Secretary certifies that the IRS doesn’t employ any individual with a “serious” tax debt.

Rouzer’s press release is here. 

 

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We Should Be Thanking Legislators & The Governor For a Vigorous Debate

I find it curious that some in the chattering class seem to want legislative reformers to all think alike and have little discussion and debate over decisions that will impact North Carolinians for years to come. It seems that the marketplace of ideas is now viewed as a problem. I vigorously disagree. We should thank legislators — from both parties — for advancing their ideas, defending their ideas, and refuting the ideas of those who think otherwise. We should thank the governor for engaging legislators and for playing an active role as big ideas are considered. We’re all better off for it. I would be concerned if there was no disagreement and no new ideas. Wouldn’t you?

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Texas Sen. Ted Cruz In Raleigh April 13

You’re invited to join the John Locke Foundation as we host one of the most dynamic limited-government conservatives on the scene today, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Registration and ticket information here.

Monday, April 13, 2015
12:00 p.m.

North Raleigh Hilton, 3415 Wake Forest Road, Raleigh, NC 27609

In 2012, Ted Cruz was elected as the 34th U.S. Senator from Texas. His calling to public service is inspired largely by his first-hand observation of the pursuit of freedom and opportunity in America. Ted’s mother was born in Delaware to an Irish and Italian working-class family; she became the first in her family to go to college, graduated from Rice University with a degree in mathematics, and became a pioneering computer programmer in the 1950s. Ted’s father was born in Cuba, fought in the revolution, and was imprisoned and tortured. He fled to Texas in 1957, penniless and not speaking a word of English. He washed dishes for 50 cents an hour, paid his way through the University of Texas, and started a small business in the oil and gas industry

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Who Is The Highest Paid School Superintendent In North Carolina?

The highest paid school superintendent in North Carolina is Bill Harrison, head of the Alamance-Burlington system. Reporting earlier this month from myfox8.com. shows Harrison’s salary is causing controversy. 

“Now we know where our taxes are going to,” said resident Debbie Underwood who can’t believe Harrison is the highest paid superintendent when students in the county don’t have the resources they need and teachers are forced to buy their own supplies. “It shouldn’t be that way but if this man is getting $330,000, I can see why.”

School board member Patsy Simpson was the only board member who voted against the salary saying Wednesday “it was just too much.”

Is it really too much money? That’s open to interpretation. I’m a believer in market forces and if a person is able to command a certain salary, then that is the market value. The difference, of course, is that we’re talking about tax dollars here. In Harrison’s case, $245,000 is from tax dollars, with the rest picked up by several other entities. In this piece, JLF’s Terry Stoops takes a look at the history of superintendents in our state.

But like every profession, it has its fair share of problems. Two of the most notable are turnover and compensation. Turnover drives compensation, and compensation drives turnover.

A school board may feel compelled to pack a superintendent contract with creative perks in order to attract a candidate to their district. In August 2013, WRAL examined the contracts of all 115 public school superintendents in North Carolina. They found that, in addition to high salaries and generous benefits, superintendents also received numerous extras, including housing allowances, overtime pay, and contract buyouts. Often these add-ons were inserted into contracts at the behest of the chosen one. Desperate school board members are all too willing to play along.

At the same time, more attractive salaries and benefits give superintendents an incentive to make any stay a temporary one. There is no shortage of opportunities to move up the superintendent career ladder, given the relatively high turnover rates among larger and often wealthier school districts.

Indeed, it is no wonder that small, rural districts have a difficult time convincing exceptional (or even mediocre) superintendents to stay put. Rarely can those districts match the salaries and benefits offered by urban and suburban counterparts. In most cases, this means that positions in these districts merely serve as entry-level jobs.

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Headline Of The Day: “Orange County offering free money to small business and farm programs”

From the Triangle Business Journal:

Orange County offering free money to small business and farm programs

The story:

The county has, so far, about $200,000 in the kitty for small businesses and about $120,000 for the ag-related applicants, says Steve Brantley, director of Orange County Economic Development, which will be administering the program.
The two grant programs are being funded by the one-quarter cent sales tax funds, called Article 46 funds, approved by voters in the November 2011 election to support economic development in Orange County.

 

Now, what the headline should be:

Orange County taxpayers subsidize small business and farm programs

 

 

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“A refund simply means you’ve given the government an interest-free loan.”

John Hood methodically refutes the false Leftist narrative about North Carolina’s historic tax reform. Now that it’s tax filing time, you will be hearing the Left make this claim again and again — and it’s false.

Once again, let me explain the source of the false claim. In 2013, the Washington-based Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) provided the left-wing North Carolina Justice Center with a distributional analysis of the tax reform bill. ITEP modeled the effects within each quintile (20 percent) of taxpaying households. Rather than producing and distributing a count of the share of North Carolinians getting tax hikes or tax cuts, however, ITEP/Justice Center focused on the “average” effect within each quintile — and then made the claim that for the bottom four quintiles in household income, the bill would raise taxes “on average.”

That phrase is important. Even if the study had been accurate, its finding was not that 80 percent of households got a tax hike. In fact, ITEP/Justice Center later admitted that its numbers showed that half of North Carolina households got a tax cut, 35 percent got a tax increase, and for the rest the results were a wash. Why didn’t they lead with this less-apocalyptic finding rather than just surrender it later when pressed by reporters? The question answers itself.

Hood continues with an important reminder for all tax filers:

When filling out their returns for the 2014 tax year, many North Carolinians are discovering that their refunds are smaller than they used to be. But when taxpayers actually compare 2014 taxes paid to previous years, most find that they are better off. A refund simply means you’ve given the government an interest-free loan.

 

 

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Hear Texas Sen. Ted Cruz Monday, April 13

You’re invited to join the John Locke Foundation as we host one of the most dynamic limited-government conservatives on the scene today, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Registration and ticket information here. 

Monday, April 13, 2015
12:00 p.m.

North Raleigh Hilton, 3415 Wake Forest Road, Raleigh, NC 27609

In 2012, Ted Cruz was elected as the 34th U.S. Senator from Texas. His calling to public service is inspired largely by his first-hand observation of the pursuit of freedom and opportunity in America. Ted’s mother was born in Delaware to an Irish and Italian working-class family; she became the first in her family to go to college, graduated from Rice University with a degree in mathematics, and became a pioneering computer programmer in the 1950s. Ted’s father was born in Cuba, fought in the revolution, and was imprisoned and tortured. He fled to Texas in 1957, penniless and not speaking a word of English. He washed dishes for 50 cents an hour, paid his way through the University of Texas, and started a small business in the oil and gas industry.

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