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Do You Believe Teachers Received A Huge Pay Increase?

You should — because it’s true.

Still, over the past few weeks we have been treated to the robotic proclamations from the Left  that North Carolina public school teachers have been ignored by the dastardly fiscal conservatives who were elected to lead the General Assembly. Their spinning continues in spite of the fact that teachers received an average pay hike of 7% — a hike most North Carolinians would jump up and down over .

But today, JLF’s Terry Stoops points out, at sister blog The Locker Room, that we have another piece of black and white evidence that, in fact, the legislature and governor treated teachers very, very well. It comes from the Fiscal Research Division of the General Assembly.

See for yourself right here.

And the next time you hear someone say that teachers are “disrespected” by fiscal reformers, you will have the evidence at your fingertips to show them they’re simply wrong. Keep in mind there are some North Carolinians who simply don’t have accurate information. Others, however, simply spin the truth because they believe it will spur turnout for Democrats in November.

What a shame that some choose to be so cynical.

 

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Privacy Advocates Win: Durham Finally Destroys Gun Registration Records

Carolina Journal’s Dan Way provides a much anticipated resolution to Durham County’s gun registration file, which advocates for privacy and gun rights have decried. 

Durham County officials on Monday destroyed gun registration documents stemming from a Jim Crow-era statute, ending months of legal uncertainty over ownership of the materials and threats of legal action had the records been preserved.

“I am pleased that we have closed that chapter of Durham’s history,” said state Sen. Mike Woodard, D-Durham, who successfully sponsored repeal legislation in this year’s short legislative session ending the practice of forcing gun owners to register their firearms. It was the only gun registry in North Carolina.

“The gun registry records were destroyed this morning,” Woodard said Monday. “The clerk [of courts] and the Sheriff’s Office got together this morning, and took them out, and shredded them.”

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“the rhetoric was a far cry from the reality”

Spinning by supporters of the Big Education status quo in our state just never seems to stop. Despite facts that show their rhetoric to be pure political spin, they go on and on. Take, for example, the refrain about the devastation that would occur to the Department of Public Instruction as part of legislative reformers’ actions to make government more efficient and accountable. John Locke Foundation Director of Research and Education Studies, Dr. Terry Stoops, writes about it here.

After state legislators approved a ten percent reduction to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) $70 million budget, state education officials and their boosters sounded the alarm.

In an exclusive interview with N.C. Policy Watch, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson claimed that N.C. DPI has been “extremely efficient with taxpayer dollars” and outlined some of the recent successes spearheaded by the agency that she directs. One liberal commentator took it way further (as he is paid to do) and declared that the cut was part of a “long-term war on public education waged by people committed to privatizing the single most important function of state government.” That is a bizarre claim given that the “people” he references increased the public education budget by $1 billion over the last four years.

Anyway, to meet the legislative requirement, Superintendent Atkinson said that she planned to eliminate 54 of 450 state-funded staff positions. True to her word, she eliminated 53.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. Around 90 percent of those FTEs were vacant positions (See Facts and Stats below).

Specifically, Atkinson chucked 47.9 full-time equivalents (FTE) — all of them vacant positions in residential schools and various departments — and funded 0.6 FTEs using other sources. The $3.2 million saved from jettisoning vacant positions is the largest share of the total $5 million reduction.

In addition, Atkinson saved nearly $580,500 by eliminating 5 FTEs currently filled. One of these positions belongs to District and School Transformation director Pat Ashley, who (I am told) plans to retire soon. The status of the other four is not known.

The final $1.3 million came from reducing contract services and departmental operations. N.C. DPI will save $600,000 by dropping contracts for superintendent coaches, $50,000 for the state’s school report card website, and $50,000 for curriculum “training and support.” Another $571,000 will come from reductions in travel, computers, and printing for agency staff.

Any negative or positive effects of these cuts on our public school districts will not be known for some time. It does not appear, however, that these cuts will paralyze N.C. DPI or “undermine the General Assembly’s own directives,” as one agency-produced document warned. In fact, the rhetoric was a far cry from the reality, a fact that may encourage legislative leaders to mandate further reductions to the N.C. DPI budget next year.

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Makes No Sense, So Let’s Stop Doing It

Considering all the talk about the need to lower health care costs, one would think there would be more serious discussion about the state law that impedes the  very competition that leads to lower costs. It’s called “Certificate of Need” and it’s commonly referred to as the state’ “CON” law. In short, when a hospital or doctor group wants to add beds or an MRI machine, for example, they must gain approval from the state, which decides if the beds/machine is really “needed.” That, of course, turns the marketplace on its head. CON law dates back to the 1970s, as JLF’s Katherine Restrepo explains here.

History reveals Congress’s intent behind enacting certificate of need (CON) laws under the federal Health Planning Resources Development Act in 1974. The goal was to cut down on health care inflation. At that time, reimbursements for services were based on the cost of production, or a cost-plus system. Providers therefore had strong incentives to build and expand the capacity of health facilities, knowing they wouldn’t have to assess patient demand.

Yet once the reimbursement system shifted to fee-for-service, the feds repealed the CON mandate in 1987. Fifteen states have since scrapped their CON programs, while the severity of the oversight and approval process for the provision of health services in the remaining states varies.

Those in favor of keeping CON intact claim that this law prevents duplicative services and underuse of facilities, both of which arguably inflate health care costs. Central planning is therefore necessary to determine which regions of the state have sufficient demand — a “need” — for certain medical commodities.

But the central planners are wrong. North Carolina regulates 25 different services.

Granted, the program did undergo some reform in 2005, which allowed gastroenterologists to perform colonoscopies in their own endoscopy units. As a result, the state saved roughly $225 million in Medicare payments within six years, since procedures performed in such free-standing facilities are reimbursed at a lesser rate than full service hospitals.

Combined with lower payment from Medicare and private insurers, an increase in the supply of services creates competition and puts downward pressure on healthcare costs. Since relaxing these regulations, 56 new units have sprung up throughout North Carolina.

It is clear that if we want to lower costs, we must infuse the health care system with competition. It is well past time for North Carolina to join the states that have repealed this impediment.

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JLF’s Becki Gray Knocks It Out Of The Park With Column On “Women’s Issues”

JLF’s Becki Gray writes today about what it means to be a real woman – not a lame voting bloc the Left chooses to patronize as “little ladies” only concerned about birth control. Thank you, Becki, for standing up for smart, concerned, well rounded women who seek opportunity, not dependent “little ladies” who look to government to take care of us.

Women care about low taxes, keeping more of our money to spend and invest as we choose. Every rule and regulation has a cost associated with it and affects anyone who has to comply. We care about transportation, national security, the environment, the economy, and immigration.

Women are entrepreneurs, investors, business owners, and job creators — just like men. We accept and embrace personal responsibility for ourselves and know how to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We care deeply about the future of our country.

Domestic violence is not a women’s issue. It’s a human rights issue. It’s a dad issue and a mom issue when little boys are taught that it’s OK to hit or abuse. To say that domestic violence is solely a women’s issue sidesteps the root of the problem and marginalizes responsibility.

Equal pay? It’s not just a women’s issue. It’s an education issue and a work issue. No one is entitled to a guaranteed pay. But as Americans, we are entitled to a good education and equal opportunity. Salary, workplace opportunities, and success are employee/employer issues, equally applicable to both genders, all races, and all ages. To say it is a women’s issue encourages entitlement over skills.

Women’s rights are protected under the U.S. Constitution and the N.C. Constitution. We got the right to vote in 1920, the right to own property on our own in the 1840s. We get to hold public office, get an education of our choice, pursue a career, be a parent, own and drive a car, borrow money, start a business, own a gun. We are entitled to all the rights of being a citizen, just like everybody else.

Don’t listen to those who would set us aside, limit the discussion to some special interest, or confine us to a voting bloc. Tell them to treat us just like everybody else. We can handle it, even if they can’t.

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The Face Of Obamacare: Worry, Financial Devastation

Writing in the Washington TimesPattie Curran of North Carolina explains the devastation of Obamacare. Patti is a mother of two kids afflicted with a rare bone-marrow dysfunction. She is also the founder of a nonprofit research and education organization.

As the mother of two chronically ill children, I have long faced high health care costs. My sons suffer from a rare bone-marrow failure syndrome called Shwachman-Diamond syndrome and have secondary mitochondrial disease that requires treatment with a broad range of expensive medications. We averaged $10,000 to $12,000 a year in billed out-of-pocket medical expenses before Obamacare became law. In 2013, we incurred just over $27,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses. President Obama’s signature piece of legislation has more than doubled our yearly medical costs.

Obamacare is not what its supporters promised. It is a huge overreach by government that is hurting millions of people. How many more must suffer before we chart a new course that allows every American a choice of coverage that works for them at a price they deem reasonable?

JLF’s Katherine Restrepo keeps on top of Obamacare, as well as other key health insurance/health care issues in her free weekly e-newsletter. 

 

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A Heartbreaking Tale Of Dependency

Writing for the Independent Women’s Forum, Vicki Alger points out an incredible statistic about food stamp recipients.

About 10% of the country’s 47 million food stamp recipients are able bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD).

How incredibly sad for these millions of people who, for one reason or another, have clearly lost their way. A compassionate society will provide immediate emergency help, but where and when should it stop? That is the center of an ongoing debate over what is an appropriate safety net and what is an enabling mechanism that robs people of the dignity that comes with work and sentences them to dependency on government. As Alger continues in her piece for IFW, the hand up we should offer is clear:

If the federal government really wants to help those in need, reduce the overall tax burden on businesses so they can expand and hire more employees. The work of corporate and philanthropic charities offering food assistance and job training should also be encouraged to meet the unique needs of their communities.

And individuals should not rely on government to solve social problems such as poverty and hunger.

In any given neighborhood across the country there are any number of charitable organizations dedicated to helping those in need. Volunteering just a few hours of time can change people’s lives for the better. Most important, becoming involved personally helps reinforce the social and civic bonds that strengthen the fabric of a free society—and that fabric is what distinguishes the United States from centralized socialist states where poverty and hunger are somebody else’s problem.

 

 

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Do Pollsters Have a Bias?

JLF’s John Hood takes a fascinating look at several well known pollsters and the characteristics of each.

On the FiveThirtyEight.com letter grading system, Survey USA is one of the few pollsters to get an A. Elon University gets a B. High Point University, PPP, and National Research each get a B-minus.

While these are the pollsters that produce the greatest amount of survey research on North Carolina issues and opinions, the Senate race between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis has certainly drawn lots of other pollsters into the state this year. Among the ones you probably see or hear about most often, the highest-ranked are ABC News/Washington Post, CNN/Opinion Research, and NBC News/Wall Street Journal, all of which get A-minuses in the pollster rankings. Mason-Dixon, Fox News, Pew Research Center, and CBS/New York Times also compare fairly well, getting Bs. Less impressive in recent election cycles have been surveys from Gallup (C+), Rasmussen Reports (C), Gravis Marketing (C), and Harris Interactive (D+).

Even the most accurate election pollsters produce some screwy samples or weight them unwisely. In addition to ranking them by accuracy, FiveThirtyEight.com also provides estimates of the average partisan bias. For top-flight pollsters, the bias is often very small. In recent elections, for example, Survey USA’s predictions have been slightly (0.2 percent) more Republican than electoral outcomes. So have predictions by National Research (+0.5 percent Republican) and — get this —PPP (+0.7 percent Republican). The Elon University poll, on the other hand, has leaned slightly Democratic (0.2 percent) while the High Point University poll has been among the few with no partisan bias at all.

Keep all this in mind as you look at poll results leading up to the November election.

 

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Wake County Commission Races: Differing Views On Fiscal Issues & Transit

The News & Observer has published a look at the four races for seats on the Wake County Board of Commissioners. 

You will find differing perspectives on spending and fiscal issues, rail transit, and more.

The candidates are:

District 1: Republican incumbent Joe Bryan versus Democrat Sig Hutchinson

District 2: Republican incumbent Phil Matthews versus Democrat Matt Calabria

District 3: Republican incumbent Rich Gianni versus Democrat Jessica Holmes

District 7: Republican incumbent Paul Coble versus Democrat John Burns

If you’d like to know more about the role of local government and the policies that protect freedom and foster prosperity, take a look at JLF’s City and County Issue Guide 2014. 

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Americans Say No: Majority Of Likely Voters Disapprove Of Obamacare

Those who say Obamacare is a dead issue are wrong. From Rasmussen:

Views of Obamacare hold steady again this week, with over half of voters continuing to express an unfavorable opinion of the national health care law and overwhelming majorities still calling for choices in health insurance that the law doesn’t allow.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 42% of Likely U.S. Voters share a favorable view of the health care law, while 52% view it unfavorably. This includes 19% with a Very Favorable opinion and twice as many (37%) with a Very Unfavorable one.

It’s  no mystery why the majority disapproves of Obamacare. JLF’s Katherine Restrepo regularly chronicles the Obamacare fiasco. Follow her analysis — and recommendations for what is required to chart a new course — here. 

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