Rep. Paul Stam, Speaker Pro Tem, North Carolina General Assembly- On October 17, 2014 Gene Nichol, who identifies himself as the “Boyd Tinsley distinguished professor at the UNC School of Law,” published in the News & Observer his latest blast at Republicans. While he claims to “not speak for UNC” he is paid by UNC an annual salary of $212,900, not including retirement, health and other benefits. His wife, Betty Glenn George, is also paid by UNC School of Medicine an annual salary of $407,410. His accusations against Republicans are so outrageous I cannot list them all. His attack against Democrats is that they do not complain enough about Republicans. Let us count the ways in which he is just wrong:
1. Charge: “The General Assembly has brutally denied health care to one half million of our most vulnerable citizens. Many will die as a result.” Fact: We spend $13 billion a year of federal and state money on Medicaid alone. Last year we increased the Medicaid budget by $500M. Most of those referenced were eligible to qualify for the federal health exchange which is heavily subsidized. Others do receive health care, just not through Medicaid.
2. Charge: Republicans have “required women to undergo a coerced medically unnecessary sonogram”. Fact: Requirement for ultrasounds at abortion clinics was instituted by Governor Jim Hunt’s Division of Public Health in 1994 without controversy or publicity. Ultrasound before abortion had become state of the art for safety reasons. Even Planned Parenthood does it 100% of the time. The 2011 “Women’s Right to Know” law gave women the OPPORTUNITY to see the ultrasound image of her child and have it explained to her. She was already paying for it.
3. Charge: “It’s taken great chunks of our education budget, already among the worst in the nation.” Fact: At the university level North Carolina is 4th highest in the nation in state support per student. Since Professor Nichol is paid by UNC he really ought to appreciate that. North Carolina ranks 8th in the nation in state support per student for K-12 education. Since Republicans have had a majority, education funding has increased by a nearly a billion dollars. That is what the General Assembly controls. It is at the local county level that we are toward the bottom.
4. Charge: “To subsidize unaccountable, discriminatory, often absurd sectarian schools.” Fact: He is talking about scholarships for parents of children with special needs and for low-income parents who enroll their children in private schools. Rather than “great chunks,” it is less than 1/10 of 1% of our education budget. These scholarships cost the taxpayer nothing. In fact, they save taxpayers approximately $5,000 per student. Gene Nichol cannot count.
5. Charge: “It has launched a regime of environmental degradation.” Fact: Our air, water and soil are cleaner than they have ever been in the last 100 years. The new Coal Ash law is the first and toughest in the nation. Absurd advertisements by the National Resources Defense Council state that taxpayers will clean up the Dan River spill. But it is crystal clear that Duke Energy’s shareholders will pay for that cleanup.
6. Charge: “It has raised the (tax) rates of low-income workers.” Fact: That charge is really ironic. Yes, the Democrats raised the tax rates on low-income families from 2003-2010. Senator Kay Hagan, budget chair, was leading the effort to raise the regressive sales tax rate. It was Republicans in 2011 who reduced the sales tax by a penny ($1 billion a year of tax relief) that disproportionally benefited low-income families. Our 2013 tax reform further benefited low-income workers by reducing their income tax rate and calculating their taxes after considering personal exemptions. In contrast the Democrats determined personal income taxes on low-income workers based on the first dollar earned.
7. Charge: “To finance tax cuts for the rich”. Fact: This apparently refers to Senator Hagan’s constant ads about the sales tax rates on jets and yachts. North Carolina has capped the sales tax rate on airplanes since 1957 and on boats since 1967. Not one Democrat moved to change that rate in the tax reform of 2011 or 2013 nor did Senator Hagan ever attempt to raise that rate when she was in charge of the budget.
8. Charge: “By boldly attacking the right to vote.” What is he talking about? The end of straight ticket voting? Shortening the days of early voting but maintaining the same number of hours so it would be more useful to people who work for a living? What eligible voter will be denied the right to vote?
I could go on and on but I have to work. Does he?