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Senate race, sales tax hike, grits and baloney

What do they all have in common, you ask?

A couple of weeks ago the Rhino’s John Hammer speculated that the mere presence of Guilford County’s quarter-cent sales tax hike on the Nov. 4 ballot will tip the Senate election toward Kay Hagan because “women voters who don’t normally vote in an off-year election will turn out to vote for school issues.”

Immediately N&R publisher Jeff “Grits” Gauger —I’m starting to think he doesn’t care much for his paper’s alt-weekly competition —- pounced, turning Hammer’s theory into an attack on women:

So, to sum up: Women are softies about schools and too stupid to see through tax proponents’ baloney, so they’ll turn out in great numbers to support the tax. That will give us a local tax increase, cost a Republican a seat on the county commission, send a Democrat to the U.S. House, and prevent Republicans from taking full control of Congress.

The evils of two X chromosomes, according to John Hammer. The consequences of extending the vote to women in 1920. The absurdity of permitting women to join men in voting on something as patently dumb as a local sales tax increase.

If only our county commission had thought, as Hammer’s reasoning suggests, to protect us from the silly women among us.

Yeah I can only hope there are many women out there who will see through tax proponents’ baloney. Now how many women will see through Hagan’s baloney is another matter, especially when you have the NYT (which I have no doubt that Gauger holds as the standard of journalism) probing —you guessed it—-the Senate race’s gender gap:

Ms. Hagan needs women to show up at the polls on Nov. 4, maybe more so than candidates in other races. She has been running even with or a few points ahead of Mr. Tillis in a swing state that is better educated and more urbanized than Louisiana, and some polls have given her an advantage of as much as 20 percentage points over Mr. Tillis among women, the biggest gender gap in any Senate race.

Under the circumstances, she couldn’t ask for a more perfect opponent, because Mr. Tillis — the speaker of the state House — has a long record of making life harder for women in North Carolina, particularly poor ones. He led Republicans in defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides preventive health services and birth control.

“Long record of making life harder for women in North Carolina.” No baloney there. But just to make sure, do your informal poll while you’re on you lunch hour today. Walk up to 10 women and ask them what they think about the quarter-cent sales tax going toward schools and note how many see through proponents’ baloney. I’ll be optimistic and say more than you might think, and that will show at the polls when the sales tax hike is shot down —- again.

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Let the media endorsements begin….

No surprises so far…..N&R endorses Sen. Kay Hagan in the Senate race;

Winston-Salem Journal endorses Democrat Josh Brannon over incumbent Rep. Virginia Foxx in the 5th District Congressional race:

But as limited as his chances are, we believe Brannon could bring fresh ideas to Washington that Foxx has not. We freely acknowledge that Foxx has the experience edge over Brannon: years of service in the state legislature, then several terms in Congress. Experience is good and needed – if it’s applied right.

We’ve occasionally praised Foxx, such as in her efforts to help our military veterans. But for too many years in Congress, she has been a voice of negativity, a roadblock to political compromise.
We don’t agree with Brannon on all his stances – his platform on income equality is unrealistic – but we like his emphasis on education and equality.

I personally can’t remember a time when the Journal has praised Foxx, but if they say so I believe them.

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UNCG keeps the wagons circled

UNCG faculty draft a petition asking Guilford County District Attorney Doug Henderson to dismiss criminal charges against three former employees.

Or how about this —Chancellor Linda Brady simply drops the charges? But that’s unlikely, according to a couple of university officials:

UNCG Provost Dana Dunn …said professors should wait to send the letter.

“I would urge you that if you can give this a little time, information will come forward….Right now you have very incomplete information. So do I.

Susan Saffran, the chairwomman of UNCG’s board of trustees, said administrators are looking to see what additional information, if any, can be made public.

“When the evidence comes out,” Saffran said, “I hope you’ll understand the actions we took.”

Great—I can’t wait to see what moved supposedly liberal minded (I’m assuming here) people to call the cops over what appears to be an administrative misdemeanor.

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Rhino on Thigpen and gay marriage

The Rhino’s John Hammer writes about the controversy surrounding Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen’s decision to reopen his office last Friday to issue gay marriage licenses:

The Board of Commissioners really doesn’t have much authority over Thigpen, who, like the sheriff, is an elected official. In fact, in speaking to the Board of Commissioners, Thigpen noted that they have to answer to their constituents and, as an official elected countywide, all 500,000 residents of Guilford County are his constituents. No member of the current Board of Commissioners was elected countywide. They were all elected from districts. Although Commissioner Kay Cashion is serving as an at-large commissioner, she was elected from a district.

…Thigpen said, “I think the core of it, I hope you’ll understand, I was trying to provide service to the citizens of Guilford County.” He noted that in this county of 500,000, which he represented, some were Democrats, some were Republicans, some were gay and some were straight – but he was elected to serve all of them.

Interesting that Thigpen argues that his decision was based on the fact that he represents all Guilford County citizens, since that’s the same argument Commissioner Hank Henning made when he said Thigpen didn’t “send a very good message…..we need to have standard operating hours for everybody.”

Which indeed is more tactful than fellow Commissioner Alan Branson’s comment that if gay couples have “waited this long, they could wait until Monday morning.”

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Medicaid expansion still a tough sell

Yesterday the N&R editorialized that it was “encouraging” that Gov. Pat McCrory and DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos were reconsidering expanding Medicaid in North Carolina.

But who really makes that call?

But two key lawmakers with oversight responsibility of her agency made it clear that, given Medicaid’s checkered history, and lingering problems resolving years of mismanagement and budget overruns, the belief that Medicaid — the government health insurance program for the poor and disabled — is ready to accept more participants is a Pollyanaish view.

Wos has told several media outlets that the foundation is in place for a more efficient and more effective Medicaid system, and that she will ask McCrory to expand Medicaid in the near term. McCrory has said through a spokesman that he is confident in Wos, and she will advise him when the time is right to expand. But before that happens, the governor will have to convince skeptical legislators.

“I will say that the original rejection of the Medicaid expansion by the General Assembly required that any plan for expansion had to come through the General Assembly, and not through an executive decision, and I don’t feel that we’re in any position right now to consider expansion under the Affordable Care Act,” said state Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell.

You guessed it —trying to get straight numbers on how much the state is already spending on Medicaid in just the first two months of the FY 2015 is proving difficult, especially considering the fact that –as acting Division of Medical Assistance director of finance Rudy Dimmling put it —““there are certain outliers that you can’t predict”— one of which is –you guessed it again —- Obamacare round two.

With all this in mind, I’ll make a prediction —the $180 million in contingency reserves for Medicaid isn’t going to get it.

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Gboro fits major piece of greenway

Biz Journal reports Chandler Concrete has sold its Mill Street site and signed a covenant agreeing to cease use of the rail line running behind the property.

Chandler’s property was the missing piece in the development of Gboro’s greenway system. Now the proposed downtown greenway can connect with the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway along Battleground Avenue.

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Guilford register of deeds critcized for gay marriage…

Guilford County Register of Deeds Jeff Thigpen is drawing criticism from a couple of county commissioners for his decision to reopen his office Friday evening to process marriage licenses for same-sex couples following a federal judge’s ruling on gay marriage in North Carolina:

“I don’t know where he gets the authority to reopen a county building and a county office after regular business hours, or what the extra cost was to the taxpayers of Guilford County,” said Guilford County Commissioner Alan Branson in an interview Sunday. “I think the whole thing was in poor taste. I doubt he would have reopened his office for a heterosexual couple who wanted to be married after regular business hours. I don’t see why this exception needed to be made.
click here!

“If they’ve waited this long, they could wait until Monday morning.”

Commissioner Hank Henning also weighed in, saying that since the county serves all citizens it needs to “have standard office hours for everybody.”

Thigpen is an elected official, so it’s not clear whether or not he needed the approval of county commissioners to re-open his office after hours.

Anybody who’s followed Thigpen’s political career — he was a county commissioner before he was elected register of deeds –knows he’s a strong liberal and gay marriage advocate. But when defending his decision to reopen Thigpen said “(i)f this was a judicial opinion that I didn’t agree with and my office had to reopen to address it, I would have done it to respond to the needs of citizens, no matter who they are.”


Guilford County sales tax debate down to the wire

The Rhino’s John Hammer starts off, writing that the Republican-led Guilford County Board of Commissioners didn’t think it through when they put the quarter-cent sales tax hike on the ballot:

They don’t call it the stupid party without reason. Look at the situation the Republican Guilford County commissioners have created by putting the quarter-cent sales tax increase on the ballot.

I told anyone who would listen that putting the tax increase on the ballot was a bad idea, unless you were in favor of increasing taxes. If you are a Republican running for office in favor of increasing taxes you are not going to get out of the primary, but the argument made by those in favor of holding the referendum was let the people decide.

Great idea, except there was no consideration that the proponents would run an inherently dishonest campaign in favor of the tax.

Hammer argues that the bigger effect will be that having the sales tax hike on the ballot will effectively throw the U.S. Senate election toward Kay Hagan —because “women will turn out in greater numbers to vote for schools.”

It’s a two-pronged effect —not only will women turn out in greater numbers but it also gives sales tax hike proponents and Hagan supporters further cause to hammer away at Thom Tillis for —yeah you’re hearing it alot these days —-gutting education in North Carolina.

I’ve got a couple of liberal friends weighing in on social media about the Senate race —one said you can tell Thom Tillis is lying just by watching his mouth move. It makes sick —especially when you look at the numbers as presented by JLF’s Terry Stoops:

So why are so many convinced that public school funding has taken a nosedive? I suspect that advertisements supporting the reelection of Senator Kay Hagan likely convinced the typical resident of Guilford County that their schools have been the victims of massive cuts at the hands of House Speaker Thom Tillis and eeeevil Republicans in Raleigh. That is not true, either locally or statewide.

….But residents of Guilford County are most interested in what they can control directly — local funding for schools. In 2013, the district spent $209.4 million in local funds for operating expenses, an 11 percent increase from the year prior. That increase added $286 in local per pupil spending during the same period.

How does this compare to districts statewide? In 2013, Guilford County Schools had the 44th highest per-pupil expenditure in the state, climbing 14 spots from 2011. In terms of local funding, Guilford County taxpayers provided the 11th highest per-student expenditure in the state. In other words, in 2013 only ten other counties allocated more per pupil funding to their public schools than Guilford County.

One may argue that the increases were not sufficient, but it takes a lot of imagination to conclude that there were no increases.

The question of sufficient funding is a valid one. But I would ask, sufficient funding for what? If the sole purpose of increasing education spending were increasing education spending, then I would argue that we have been diverted from our goal of ensuring that all children receive a superior education. Regrettably, outcomes seldom become the focus of campaigns to drain additional resources from taxpayers, particularly those who can least afford it.

All things to take into consideration as the debate heats up over the next three weeks.

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Did Thom Tillis cut $500m from public education?

Out of all the accusations tossed back and forth during last night’s debate between Sen. Kay Hagan and Rep. Thom Tillis, I’d say Hagan’s charge that Tillis cut $500 million in education spending in North Carolina is the biggest because Hagan used a finite number to making a supposed statement of fact.

So is Hagan’s accusation true? Well, PolitiFact did some checking. Note who makes an appearance:

Reductions in federal and local education spending — as well as funding shifts due to rising charter school popularity — could also be a major reason why schools feel as if their funds have shrunk, despite a steadily increasing state budget, said Terry Stoops, director of research and education policy at the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina think tank that promotes limited government. He added that between 2010 and 2013, federal funding to North Carolina schools dropped by $337.6 million.

Here’s the bottom line “(i)t’s important to note that the Legislature’s choosing to fund at levels lower than the continuation budget is not a literal budget cut. In raw dollars, the state is spending more money than in previous years.” In other words, when you give any government entity more money than they received the previous year but not as much as they asked for, then in their minds it’s a “cut.”

With that in mind, PolitiFact concludes Hagan’s statement is “literally wrong,” but considering N.C.’s budget “spent almost $500 million less than what was requested to maintain the status quo, accounting for inflation and increased costs of various services,” it was upgraded to “half true.”

And we remember what our mothers taught us about “half truths.”

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Supreme Court denies Kalvin Smith appeal

Obviously the focus of yesterday’s Supreme Court action was the decision to let stand appeals court rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five states, which many believe paves the way for the overturn of Amendment One in North Carolina.

But another case before ran under the radar— the court denied an appeal by attorneys for Kalvin Michael Smith, who is serving a 29-year prison sentence for the 1995 beating of Jill Marker:

James Coleman, one of Smith’s attorneys, said the decision wasn’t a surprise. Coleman filed the petition in May, arguing that Forsyth County prosecutors suppressed or destroyed evidence that would have been favorable to Smith’s case. Smith has now lost all federal appeals. U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles denied Smith’s appeal in June 2013, and the 4 th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld that decision earlier this year.

Smith’s legal fight is not over, however —his attorneys will return to Forsyth County Superior Court and seek an overturn to a judge’s 2009 decision to deny Smith’s appeal.

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