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State Government
Cooper Proclaims June as LGBT Pride Month PDF Print E-mail
State Government
By Administrator   
Thursday, 07 June 2018 08:40
Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed June as NC LGBT Pride Month.
 
“I am proud to recognize the LGBT community and honor the many contributions LGBT North Carolinians have made to our state,” said Governor Cooper. “Recognizing Pride Month helps us reflect on the progress LGBT people have made on the path to achieving equality, and it also inspires us to continue our efforts to work with the LGBT community to make this state a welcoming place for all.”
 
June was chosen as LGBT Pride Month to commemorate the riots that took place at the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan the morning of June 28, 1969, often viewed as the birth of the modern LGBT rights movement. June has also been the month of several landmark United States Supreme Court decisions positively impacting LGBT rights.
 
 
On October 18, 2017, Governor Cooper signed Exec. Order No. 24, 32 N.C. Reg. 958-962, which established policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in state employment, state services, and state contracts under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Governor.
 
The State of North Carolina will continue to advocate for the protection and respect of LGBT individuals – regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
 
North Carolina now joins the national celebration of June as Pride Month to honor the LGBT community and advocate for LGBT equality.
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 June 2018 09:29
 
Senate Passes State Budget PDF Print E-mail
State Government
By Administrator   
Thursday, 31 May 2018 08:36
The North Carolina Senate on Wednesday gave initial approval to a roughly $23.9 billion state budget. 
 
The final budget includes: 
•         Invests close to $700 million additional dollars in public education.
•         Provides an average 6.5 percent pay raise for teachers and a 6.9 percent increase to the principal salary schedule. 
•         Includes new initiatives to help keep students safe in North Carolina classrooms.
•         Sets aside $241 million in lottery funding to build or upgrade school facilities.
•         Directs more than $200 million toward compensation increases to state employees, including a two percent permanent pay raise for most state workers and larger increases for State Highway Patrol troopers and correctional officers.
•         Delivers a $1.5 billion tax cut that will result in 99 percent of taxpayers either paying less or paying no state personal income taxes at all.
•         Allocates an additional $60 million to help victims of Hurricane Matthew rebuild.
•         Establishes the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program to address broadband needs in the state's rural areas.
•         Includes funding to help ensure access to clean water for North Carolinians affected by GenX pollution.
•         Makes key changes to economic development programs that are expected to secure thousands of new jobs and billions in new investment to the state.
•         Adds $161 million to the state’s rainy day fund, which lawmakers have built to a historic high of $2 billion to ensure North Carolina is well-prepared for the next natural disaster or economic downturn.
 
Governor Declares A State Of Emergency In Western North Carolina After Drenching Rains From Alberto PDF Print E-mail
State Government
By Administrator   
Thursday, 31 May 2018 08:34
Governor Roy Cooper has declared a State of Emergency for western North Carolina after heavy rains overnight prompted mudslides in multiple communities, closed portions of I-40 east of Asheville and triggered evacuations of Old Fort and a community near Lake Tahoma in McDowell County.
 
"Our emergency response and transportation crews have been working through the night to keep North Carolinians safe as conditions deteriorate," Governor Cooper said. "But this storm isn't yet over. I'm urging people to keep a close eye on forecasts and flood watches, and asking drivers to use caution especially when travelling in our western counties."
 
The State of Emergency will help the state coordinate storm response and prepare for any additional impacts. The Governor will also issue a transportation waiver to expedite the movement of utility vehicles and others engaged in relief efforts.
 
Scattered showers and thunderstorms will continue for the next several days, continuing the threat of flash flooding across the mountains. Primary concerns right now are the stability of mountain slopes and several dams. Mudslides have occurred in numerous areas. Local and state officials are closely monitoring the dams at Lake Lure, Lake Tahoma, Lake Tuxedo and North Fork Lake and are sending state dam safety engineers to areas of concern.
 
State and local officials are keeping a close watch on rivers across western NC, where several rivers are currently experiencing minor flooding and the French Broad River at Blantyre is forecast to experience moderate flooding later today. Additionally, there are several rivers across eastern NC that are near or forecast to be near Minor Flood Stage over the coming days.
 
Local officials last night ordered a mandatory evacuation of downtown Old Fort due to extensive flooding and of the area below the Lake Tahoma Dam. A voluntary evacuation for Chimney Rock was also requested.   A licensed care facility and mobile home parks in Buncombe also were evacuated.
 
Overnight the state deployed more than 50 search and rescue technicians. A combination of swift water rescue and urban search and rescue teams from Greensboro, Mooresville and Charlotte are being sent to McDowell, Rutherford and Jackson counties to help with any potential rescues.
 
More than 200 people have sought refuge in one of six shelters. Most of the evacuees are staying in one of three shelters open in McDowell County; other shelters are open in Buncombe, Polk and Rutherford counties More than 6,500 power outages were reported across western counties, mostly in Henderson, McDowell Cleveland, Buncombe, Swain and Transylvania.
 
State transportation officials have closed roads in Avery, Buncombe, McDowell, Watauga, Henderson, Rutherford, Macon, Polk, Mitchell, Transylvania, Gaston, Catawba and Iredell counties.
 
At the Buncombe-McDowell County line, two westbound lanes and one eastbound lane of Interstate 40 near Mile Marker 67 were closed by a mudslide. Five vehicles were caught in the mud but no injuries were reported. Transportation crews worked through the night to clear debris from the road. By 2 a.m., crews restored two lanes in the eastbound direction and one lane in the westbound direction.
 
In McDowell County, two NCDOT workers were rescued after the tandem dump truck they were using to help clear a mud slide was pushed off a road by another slide and into the Catawba River. They climbed out through a passenger window and stood on the side of the truck in the water until emergency crews got them to safety.
 
Is It Time For A Mileage Tax? PDF Print E-mail
State Government
By Administrator   
Tuesday, 29 May 2018 12:39

             By Dr. Mike Walden, the William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who teaches and writes on personal finance, economic outlook, and public policy. 

 

          Two decades ago I wrote an op-ed piece discussing the idea of a mileage tax as a replacement for the gas tax.  This was in the days before everyone used email, and texting hadn’t even been invented.  Many people still communicated by writing letters.

            I received several letters expressing both pro and con reactions to a mileage tax.  But one letter was particularly interesting.  The writer said that anyone attempting to track his mileage in order to levy a tax would first have to get past his shotgun!  My conclusion was the writer didn’t like the idea of a mileage tax.

            What is a mileage tax and why am I writing about it now?   A mileage tax is simply a way of collecting funds from drivers to pay for roads.  It’s based on the principle that a driver’s use of a road is directly related to how many miles are driven.  A mileage tax is an example of a user fee.  People who use roads more pay more than people who use roads less.

            The gas tax is also a user fee.  The more we drive, the more gas we use, so if we pay a set number of cents per gallon of gas when we fill up, there will be a direct link between our use of the roads and revenue collected from the gas tax.

            Or, at least there used to be.   The gas tax is being impacted by two changes, both tied to our society’s desire to reduce the carbon footprint of vehicles. 

            First, fuel efficiency – miles per gallon of gas – is increasing.  This is good because it means we can travel farther on a tank of gas, and therefore gas-powered vehicles are not emitting as much pollution into the atmosphere.

            Second, alternative fuels are now appearing.  Hybrid vehicles and electric powered vehicles are becoming more and more common.   And in the future, some experts think there might be natural gas powered vehicles.   Just like improved fuel efficiency, these alternative fuels are better for the environment than gasoline, and in some cases they are cheaper.

            So what’s the problem – aren’t getting more miles per gallon of gas and having hybrid and electric powered vehicles good things?   Yes - good for you and me and good for the environment - but not good for gas tax revenues.

            Here’s why.  As fuel efficiency rises, drivers are getting more miles per gallon of gas.  This means the same wear and tear on the roads is occurring, but with less money collected from the gas tax.   With an all-electric or mostly-electric vehicle, either no gas taxes are collected or the gas taxes collected are significantly lower.  So both of these changes are breaking the traditional link between road usage and the gas tax.

            There are studies already showing states losing hundreds of millions of dollars due to the improvements in fuel efficiency and the use of alternative fuels.  Some states have begun imposing flat fees on electric vehicles, but they’ve not compensated for the loss of gas tax money.  Some experts think gas tax revenues could run out sometime this century.

            This is where a mileage tax comes in.   A mileage tax is not impacted by gains in fuel efficiency or use of different kinds of fuel.   If you drive a mile, you pay a set fee for that mile.  Some think a mileage tax could not only be used for vehicles, but also for buses and mass transit.

            How much would a mileage tax be?  Current estimates say a mileage tax of between 2 and 3 cents per mile would be adequate to fund today’s roads.  But since the wear and tear created by a vehicle is related to the weight of that vehicle, there are recommendations to make the mileage tax higher for heavier vehicles and lower for lighter vehicles. 

            Now let me go back to my beginning comment about the letter writer who wasn’t happy with the mileage tax when I discussed it twenty years ago.  People are rightly concerned about the privacy of their driving, and are worried that a mileage tax could allow government to track their trips.

            These are legitimate concerns, and are similar to those expressed about use of the internet and social media.    To accept a mileage tax, people will have to be convinced their driving information won’t be shared with either public or private entities.

            Still, the world is changing, and digital data are being used for more and more of our daily transactions, from making reservations, to depositing or withdrawing money, to taking out loans.    I expect the tech sector will continue to add safeguards and security that will enhance the privacy and confidentiality of all these transactions.  But will the changes be enough?

            Surveys do show that attitudes about the mileage tax are changing, with younger people being more comfortable and accepting of the idea.  

            There may be a time in the future when vehicles come automatically equipped with technology for recording and transmitting mileage to governments that fund roads.   And there could be linkages to mobile payment devices that enables a pay-as-you-drive process.

            The big questions are – how soon will we get there, and do we want to?  You decide!              

 
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