Civitas Review

NC House Committee Votes for Higher Energy Bills, Continued Corporate Welfare


The well-financed special interest lobbyists of Big Solar won again today, at the expense of everybody else.

House Bill 681, the NC Energy Ratepayers Protection Act, a bill that would have capped and sunset a state law forcing NC energy users to purchase more expensive and unreliable sources of "renewable" energy, was defeated in the House Public Utilities Committee.

A government mandate forcing utilities to provide a minimum percentage of its energy from so-called renewable energy sources – like solar – is corporate welfare plain and simple. Energy users across the state – from low-income apartments to big businesses – pay more for their energy in order to further enrich wealthy investors employing lobbyists to game the system in their favor. Low-income families are disproportionately hardest hit because they spend a larger share of their household income on energy bills.

Moreover, higher energy costs on business discourage investment and job creation, reducing the number of employment options – especially for those low-skilled, low-income people on the margins of employment.

Indeed, a recent study conducted by Strata Policy in conjunction with Utah State University’s Institute of Political Economy concluded that North Carolina’s renewables mandate has cost the state 24,000 jobs and $14.4 billion in personal income. Higher energy bills on commercial and industrial ratepayers discouraged investment and job creation, resulting in household income being roughly $3,900 lower by 2013 than it would have been absent the mandate.

The Committee voted against the Ratepayer Protection Act by a vote of 16-14. All 11 of the committee's Democrats rejected the bill, joined by five Republicans: Sam Watford (R-Davidson), Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), Chris Malone (R-Wake), Kelly Hastings (R-Cleveland) and John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg).

Decline in student enrollment coming



It’s been an unquestioned assumption of modern urban or suburban life: each year schools get more and more students. Meeting that need has meant hiring more teachers and staff helped to fuel ever-growing education budgets.

Earlier this week Mike Petrilli of the Fordham Institute sought to put the brakes on that idea in a blog post where he pointed out that since 2007, the US birth rate has declined 9 percent. Petrilli also notes that over the last six years, 48 states have experienced birth declines, including North Carolina whose K-12 student population has declined 9.2 percent.

Declining populations have already arrived in many rural counties in North Carolina and across the United States. While there are always exceptions in certain areas, the overall trend lines are clear.

Since school system costs are driven largely by student population, we’ll be hearing a lot about shrinking budgets and possible layoffs. Dealing with those issues is never easy. However it’s good to remember the context:  there are fewer and fewer students.

"Conservatives" Push for Big Solar Funded by the Left


A special report posted yesterday by the Civitas Institute spotlights the funders pushing the "big solar" lobby in North Carolina.

What do President Barack Obama and a growing number of Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly have in common? The answer – their love of major solar energy companies – Big Solar, for short.

In North Carolina, there is a growing group of Republicans in the legislature who actively support legislation that backs government mandates and taxpayer subsidies as well as higher electric bills for consumers. In fact, they are working to extend the government mandates, tax credits and overall government assistance that has helped create and sustain solar energy companies in North Carolina, along with higher electric bills and the less reliable power supply that come with it.

Check out the whole article to learn more about the NC power players seeking to line the pockets of a special interest at the expense of the rest of us.

And stay tuned for Part II.

Lowering Energy Bills and Increasing Health Care Competition: 2 Good Bills


Most of you are probably familiar with the Civitas Institute's Bad Bill of the Week series. Fortunately, this week also saw the focus turn to two good bills that would help lower utility bills and increase choice and competition in medical care.

HB 681 would cap and repeal the state's mandate forcing utilities to generate a set percentage of their energy from inefficient and expensive "renewable" energy.

The law says utilities have to generate increasing amounts of energy from the sun, wind and organic wastes, or from energy efficiency. It set an ultimate green-energy target of 12.5 percent of retail sales by 2021.

A bill sponsored by two chairs of the House Public Utilities committee and Majority Leader Mike Hager cuts that target by half. It makes the final target 6 percent, this year’s benchmark, and ends the mandate in 2018.

One of the primary sponsors, Pender County Republican Chris Millis, calls the standard a transfer of wealth to renewable-energy developers.

Secondly, SB 702 would repeal the state's draconian Certificate of Need laws – which require medical providers to beg state bureaucrats for permission to expand or open new facilities.

An influential state senator wants to repeal laws that were designed to curb health care costs, arguing that they have actually accomplished the opposite.

A bill introduced by Sen. Tom Apodaca, the Henderson County Republican who chairs the Senate Rules Committee, would eliminate the state’s certificate-of-need laws. Intended to prevent excessive facilities and equipment, the CON program requires hospitals and other medical providers to get state approval for expansions and major acquisitions.

But Apodaca contends that the program’s most vigorous supporters are the health care providers who are protected by them.

“If we opened it up and let providers compete, the consumers would come out better in the long run,” he said. “I think there would be more services available at less cost.”

Passage of both these bills are long overdue and would strike a blow against the state's stranglehold over these two vital industries.

Who pays taxes?


Yesterday was tax day. It’s the time when all Americans face the realization that there is no escaping the tax man. Rich and Poor alike must pay their fair share. Or that’s what we’re told.

Last week the Wall Street Journal ran data from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and found the general principle of paying our fair share in taxes really isn't happening.  Researchers found the top fifth of all income earners (above $134,300) pays about 84 percent of $1.26 trillion in federal income tax collected.

In fairness, the figures include income taxes only the results do not include social security and Medicare taxes. When those figures are included the percentage paid by the top fifth of all incomes, falls from 84 to 67 percent.  Why everyone pays the same percentage on both social security and Medicare taxes—up to a certain income.

Still, no matter how you slice it the top fifth of all earners provides 67% to 84% of all revenue generated by federal income taxes.

As much as the Left prattles on about equity and everyone paying their fair share, no one seems too upset at this imbalance. Of course you have to wonder how much longer it can continue when you realize nearly half of all households pay no federal income tax.


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