In the latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive, Anthony Greco looks at Senate Bill 13, which passed the Appropriations/Base Budget Committee today, and could trim more than $800 million from next year's projected budget deficit.
SB 13: Balenced Budget Act of 2011 was voted out of the Senate Appropriations Committee this afternoon.
The bill provides the governor with the power to generate savings during this fiscal year by reducing expenditures by a goal of $400M.
The bill also provides for transfers out of Golden Leaf (67,563,760), Tobacco Trust (2,800,000) and Health and Wellness (17,045,800). In addition, it transfers almost another $90 M in rescissions. Leaving a balance of $165M to carry over for next year.
This article from Britain’s Daily Mail describes how the mining of neodymium China, the element needed to make the magnets in wind turbines, is making lakes toxic and “killing farmers, their children, and their land.” Apparently the mining of neodymium, which is being subsidized by western governments around the world trying to promote “clean energy” with wind power subsidies, requires the disposal of massive amounts of toxic waste. Since neodymium is found and mined in the peasant farm regions of China, it is there that the damage is being done. This description from quoting one farmer paints a grim picture:
‘At first it was just a hole in the ground,’ he says. ‘When it dried in the winter and summer, it turned into a black crust and children would play on it. Then one or two of them fell through and drowned in the sludge below. Since then, children have stayed away.’ As more factories sprang up, the banks grew higher, the lake grew larger and the stench and fumes grew more overwhelming. ‘It turned into a mountain that towered over us,’ says Mr Su. ‘Anything we planted just withered, then our animals started to sicken and die.’ People too began to suffer. Dalahai villagers say their teeth began to fall out, their hair turned white at unusually young ages, and they suffered from severe skin and respiratory diseases. Children were born with soft bones and cancer rates rocketed. Official studies carried out five years ago in Dalahai village confirmed there were unusually high rates of cancer along with high rates of osteoporosis and skin and respiratory diseases. The lake’s radiation levels are ten times higher than in the surrounding countryside, the studies found.
I just don’t understand the self-centeredness of these Chinese farmers. Don’t they understand that they are sacrificing for a noble cause? After all, in 150 years these wind turbines may allow the earth to be as much a .5 degrees cooler than it would otherwise be. This is in addition to the fact that there’s a lot of people in New York and California who think har wind turbines are really neat to look at (unless of course they’re visible from their house).
As an aside, where is the environmental justice crowd on this?
David Bass' latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive focuses on N.C. Senate budget writers' plans to divert money from sources including the Golden LEAF to help plug the state's multibillion-dollar budget hole.
Pope Center president Jane Shaw had an interesting article today discussing whether or not college constitutes a "public good," i.e. whether or not an action taken by individuals benefits just the individuals or society as a whole. The public good idea is used to justify government spending on the military, for instance, since it benefits society as a whole and taxes are a good way to prevent the problem of free riders--those who benefit from the public good but don't pay their fair share.
Higher education is also traditionally thought of as a public good. However, in today's piece Jane iconoclastically suggests that college is, in fact, a "bad public good," failing to live up to the high expectations set for it.
The discussion sheds an interesting light on the funding mechanism for North Carolina's community colleges, which are thought of as a public good and heavily subsidized. Only about 19 percent of funding comes from the direct beneficiaries of community college education (the students) via tuition and fees.
Most of the rest comes from the North Carolina General Fund--about 66 percent--but that number will likely be coming down soon, as the Governor has asked community colleges to make 10 percent budget reductions. In order to meet this goal, the colleges plan to increase tuition by $10 per credit hour, implement "a cumulative management flexibility reduction of 5%" and "targeted categorical reductions," and change the funding formula that determines how much community colleges are reimbursed by the state.
Currently, community colleges are reimbursed based on the total number of students they enroll, regardless of what type of training they receive. This has discouraged community colleges from enrolling too many students who seek training in areas such as health care and lab-based science, since it costs more to instruct these students.
The new funding formula would take into account the differences in the cost of instruction for different fields, setting up a three-tiered system for reimbursement based on type of instruction:
Tier 1: Reimbursement $3,512.45 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student, 15% higher than Tier 2. Includes health care, technical education, and lab-based sciences.
Tier 2: Reimbursement $3,054.20 per FTE. Includes all other curriculum (i.e. not continuing education) classes and continuing education classes "mapped to a third-party credential, certification, or industry-designed curriculum that the scheduled length is 96 hrs or higher."
Tier 3: Reimbursement $2,596.08 per FTE, 15% lower than Tier 2. Includes "all other continuing education" courses.
Free market advocates (and those like Jane who question the value of college education as a public good) will likely see this as a small victory. Yes, less funding will come from the state and more will come from those directly benefiting from the instruction, but the three tier system and the 15% gradations do appear to be arbitrarily set and the whole system is still overwhelmingly funded by taxpayers.
Any potential change has yet to be voted on. Jennifer Haygood, the State Board of Community Colleges' VP of Business and Finance, writes: "If implemented, we anticipate the State Board would utilize this model to allocate funds to colleges in F[iscal] Y[ear] 2011-12."
We were joking this morning that Gov. Bev Perdue rewarded former Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge with a sinecure. In case you don't know, a sinecure is a job with little authority or responsibility. We learned later in the day just how accurate that was.
The Associated Press reported, in a story in The News & Observer and other AP client papers, that Etheridge had been appointed to head the Office of Economic Recovery and Investment, a position that Dempsey Benton left in November, and which has been running fine for two months without Etheridge. The position calls for the former congressman to, according to AP, "oversee North Carolina's share of the federal stimulus program."
And also according to AP, that job was mostly completed by Benton before he left the position:
Money will go through the program through at least 2012, but nearly 80 percent of the recovery funds have already been spent. Etheridge will oversee how the money is dispersed and make sure projects under contract are getting done.
The fact that only 20 percent of the stimulus money remains to be disbursed might make a reasonable person wonder why the position was being filled in the first place. Let an intern do it and save some money. But, giving the governor the benefit of the doubt, we figured she's got a lot on her plate and needs Etheridge's help in this monumental task.
Benton said about 95 percent of the state's $6 billion allotment either has been spent or is already dedicated to be spent.
Hiring a defeated Democratic congressman for a salary of nearly $100,000 a year to do what amounts to the remaining one-twentieth of the job Dempsey Benton had already nearly completed two months ago would seem truly to qualify as a sinecure. Some might even see it as a payoff.
Speaking of the N.C. Office of Economic Recovery and Investment, Benton announced in November that the staff had dwindled to less than half of the 15 that were there when the program began. It's impossible to know how many staff remain to be managed by Etheridge because the "STAFF" link on the agency's website goes nowhere.
David Bass' latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive features a new study that shows nearly half of the nation's largest colleges and universities offer school-sponsored health insurance that covers abortions.
Very well indeed -- if you are one of its officials. Fascinating details in this Cato@Liberty post by Tad DeHaven.
Too bad that HUD was ever created. It shouldn't have been. There is no more constitutional authority for the federal government to be in the business of promoting housing and urban development than for it to be in the business of promoting piano lessons.
The committee debated Senate Bill 8, "No Cap on Number of Charter Schools."
A Committee Substitute proposed and is now before the committee. Sen. Stevens says this is a starting point. His intent is to get the best bill that provides the best education for students.
The bill removes the current cap on the number of charter schools. It creates a new independent NC Public Charter Schools Commision to approve and monitor charters of 11 members (Superintendent of Public Instruction and appointees by Governor and General Assembly). It clarifies funding - state funds could be used for land and facilities, and local governments could provide funds for facilitites as well. Charters could get a portion of lottery funds for school construction. Enrollment cap would be eliminated.
Sen. Purcell voices concerns that the bill segregates charter schools. Stevens says it doesn't.
Sen. Rucho asks about surplus school properties available to purchase or lease by charters. Under the bill, cities and counties may make capital funds available to charters - one of the big changes in this bill.
Sen. Graham voices support for the bill but says the devil is in the details. Will the new commission create a dual system with more bureacracy? The response: This does not require additional dollars. Charters will have 1 percent of their gross per pupil allotment withheld to support the commission.
Sen. Robinson is concerned about boards holding charters accountable. Stevens says accountability standards have not changed.
Sen. McKissick suggests that the commission be advisory to the State Board of Education. He also would like charters to apply for federal programs to provide free lunch to qualifying students. He has concerns about charters getting lottery money. Stevens says food and transportation have been considered - will have to work it out.
Sen. Stein is concerned about charters being used to resegregate by not providing free lunch and transportation. He wants strong accountability. If they get freedom, they have to deliver more.He's concerned about totally eliminating the cap.
Stevens says they will provide the committee demographics and more info on the performance of charters in North Carolina.
Sen. Garrou asks about when a child drops out after 10th or 20th day, does that per pupil allocation go back to district school? Stevens: No, just like district school, funding is set for the year after the first few weeks of the school year.
Darrell Allison of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina speaks in favor. Karen Sutton, Charlotte parent who has been trying to get her daughter in charter and on waiting list for two years, wants the cap lifted.
Opposed to the bill: Anne McCall with SBE says they are concerned with the constitutional authorization for SBE to administer free public schools. She wants an advisory council that is "qualified" to serve and advise SBE. She doesn't like new commission. Departments within SBE serve the population of charters.
Leanne Winner of the school boards association is concerned about choice. Will all children have an opportunity? Those who need free lunch and transportation don't have the choice. She has funding mechanism concerns - authorized cities while they are not authorized to fund district schools. She has concerns about accountability of money. She says charters get a disproportionate amount of per pupil allocation.
There is no vote today. Amendments will be taken next week.
Discussion will continue next Wednesday. If the bill is at a good point, they'll vote next week. If not, discussion will continue.
The Civitas Institute has released it's latest study, a really impressive transparency project updating changes in voter registrations in North Carolina. The study, available online, includes graphics and statistics of county-by-county changes in the composition of voter registrations across the state. It's an excellent and extensive resource.
The information is searchable for comparison of a previous month/year's stats against changes in the registration data for a later period. Political party affiliation is broken down by Democrat, Republican, and Unaffiliated, and demographics by Black, White, and Other.
Since the bar graphs include percentage changes as well as totals, viewers get a good idea of where, when, and for whom the greatest changes have occurred. An invaluable tool for understanding and working with public policy issues, voter groups, and voter concerns over the course of the next many years.
Michael Barone's latest Washington Examinercolumn dissects the portions of President Obama's State of the Union address that focused on the future of technology:
Barack Obama, like all American politicians, likes to portray himself as future-oriented and open to technological progress. Yet the vision he set out in his State of the Union address is oddly antique and disturbingly static.
"This is our generation's Sputnik moment," he said. But Sputnik and America's supposedly less advanced rocket programs of 1957 were government projects, at a time when government defense spending, like the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb, drove technology.
But today, as Obama noted a few sentences before, "our free enterprise system is what drives innovation." Private firms develop software faster than government can procure it.
Undaunted, Obama calls for more government spending on "biomedical research, information technology and especially clean energy technology." Government has some role in biotech, though a subsidiary one, but IT development is almost exclusively a private-sector function and clean energy technology that is not private-sector-driven is almost inevitably uneconomic.
And then there is transportation. "Within 25 years," Obama said, "our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. This could allow you," he said breathlessly, "to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying."
Wow! There's some advanced technology. Except that France inaugurated service on its TGV high-speed rail from Paris to Lyon in 1981. That's 30 years ago. It's as if President Eisenhower was inspired by Sputnik to promote the technology of 30 years before, Charles Lindbergh's single-engine propeller plane the Spirit of St. Louis. It's as antique as the Tomorrowland of the original Disneyland.
You might not expect today’s highest-profile advocates of limited government to agree with the man who gave us the New Deal. But Hillsdale College historian Paul Rahe makes the connection in a new Commentary article. (The subscriber link is here.)
Consider what Barack Obama and the Democrats did over the past two years—with their so-called stimulus, health-care reform, and reform of financial regulation. Each initiative involved the passage of a bill more than a thousand pages in length that virtually no one voting on could have read, and no one but those who framed it could have understood. Each involved a massive expansion of the federal government and massive payoffs to favored constituencies. And each was part of a much larger project openly pursued by self-styled progressives in the course of the last century and aimed at concentrating in the hands of “a small group” of putative experts “an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor—other people’s lives.” Without quite knowing whom they are evoking, Tea Partiers are inclined to say, as FDR said in 1936, that if they do not put a stop to what is going on, “for too many of us life” will be “no longer free” and “liberty no longer real”—for otherwise the bureaucratic busybodies ensconced in Washington will deprive us of the means by which to “follow the pursuit of happiness” as we see fit.
The only difference is that FDR’s assertions demonizing the “economic royalists” were demonstrably false, and when the Tea Partiers make comparable claims today, they are, alas, telling the truth.
As a corrective for any warm, fuzzy feelings you might be having now about FDR, consult Amity Shlaes’ dissection of his New Deal policies in her excellent book The Forgotten Man.
You’ve heard of Jon Sanders’ “but-face.” Now Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz introduces us to the “no, but” argument — as practiced by Slate’s Jacob Weisberg in the days following the Tucson shootings. (Click here for a subscriber link to Podhoretz’s full column.)
Some began advancing the idea that this was a “teachable moment” about the dangers of violent rhetoric. Ah, the teachable moment. That is the schoolmarmish way of announcing the onset of a public re-education campaign designed to impose the American liberal sensibility on everyone who has not yet breathed it in. When you have a teachable moment, it doesn’t matter whether the motivator was true or false—whether, in other words, violent rhetoric had anything to do with what happened.
Weisberg didn’t go in for the teachable-moment thing. Instead, he aired out a “no, but” argument that I expect will become axiomatic for liberals going forward—one that seems at first to acknowledge the truth before drowning out the truth with ideological, emotional, and rhetorical slander.
No, Loughner was not a Tea Partier, but (according to this view) he might as well have been. Tea Partiers dislike Washington and Democrats, and Gabrielle Giffords is a Democratic politician in Washington. And no, he was not a conservative, but conservatives tend to support the idea that the Second Amendment grants Americans the right to own guns, and he was able to buy a gun. Moreover, Republicans and conservatives like Sarah Palin often use “violent rhetoric” when discussing the defeat of their ideological adversaries at the ballot box—terms like “lock and load” and “reload”—which served as the amniotic fluid in which his crime gestated.
If the "no, but" argument sounds silly to you, you've got the right idea.
When discussing the president’s attitude about business, it’s important to note the distinction Roy Cordato has highlighted between “anti-business” and “anti-free market.”
So it’s possible to label President Obama “pro-business” and still accuse him of taking steps that hurt consumers, entrepreneurs, and the economy as a whole.
Still, I’m not sure that’s what George Soros is trying to say in the last, somewhat puzzling sentence in this week Newsweek excerpt (which does not appear to have been posted online):
George Soros, the billionaire hedge-fund investor, says the magnitude of Obama’s shift has been exaggerated. “Actually Obama has been very pro-business, and I think business has been very anti-Obama,” said Soros, one of the few Davos regulars who thinks the president was too soft on the financial-services industry. Soros argues that Obama’s failure to crack down more has actually been to his political detriment. “He has awoken a very strong sentiment in the Tea Party because of his pro-business position,” Soros said.
Soros is undoubtedly correct — whether he realizes it or not — that Obama’s support for crony capitalism has “awoken a very strong sentiment” among some Tea Party supporters, though I suspect most of them have been motivated more by concerns about massive overspending, regulatory overreach, and ObamaCare.
George Will’s latest Newsweekcolumn offers generally high marks to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s ideas for improving the nation’s schools.
While others will find good reasons to object to some of Duncan’s ideas and statements, Will’s columns emphasizes some important points:
America’s per-pupil spending is higher than that of the 34 OECD nations except for Luxembourg. “Students in Estonia and Poland,” Duncan says, “perform at roughly the same level as those in the U.S., even though Estonia and Poland spend less than half as much per student.” But many higher-performing countries emphasize higher teacher salaries rather than smaller class sizes.
Although teachers’ unions are eager to shrink class sizes, thereby increasing the demand for more dues-paying teachers, Duncan knows there is no strong correlation between smaller class sizes and increased learning—other than when teaching reading in grades K through three.