THE RALEIGH REPORT
December 17, 2015
It's Christmas, and I'm thinking about gift giving and my grandchildren. But instead of Santa Claus, what comes to mind are Dr. Seuss and Gerald McGrew. "If I ran the zoo," said young Gerald McGrew, "I'd make a few changes, that's just what I'd do."
I can't think of anything better to do for my grandchildren at Christmas than to make a few changes. First and foremost, I would expand Medicaid. That would be a gift to taxpayers, the uninsured and the unemployed as well as our children. Not only would Medicaid expansion not cost taxpayers one dime, it would save the hard earned money we now take from them and spend, unnecessarily, to provide health care to inmates, veterans, pregnant women and people with disabilities, mental illness or HIV/ Aids. In North Carolina, Medicaid expansion would cover 38,000+ inmates, more than 190 thousand people with mental illness, 23,000 veterans and 8,000 veteransí spouses. We give a lot of well-deserved praise to our veterans; let's add the more tangible thank you of expanding Medicaid.
An expanded Medicaid would free up millions of dollars to invest in programs that would make our communities safer and happier: quality early childhood care and Pre-K for working parents, a child oriented K-12 system with talented, well paid teachers and teacher assistants, up to date textbooks, state-wide connectivity and low tuition at our community colleges and the UNC system. For people whose jobs have been replaced by technology, we could add skill training to make them ready to fill the 2600 new higher paying jobs that Medicaid expansion would create. In turn, they would become 2600 new taxpayers to help pay the cost of our Democracy. If we were really as family and child oriented as we claim, we would include paid family leave for new parents.
To fulfill our state constitutional mandate to provide a "uniform system of free public schoolsÖfor all students" I would expand broadband throughout every rural community and work with industry to provide low-income students with tablets so they could do their homework at home instead of at school or a public library.
For the struggling families that live in the once vibrant small towns across rural North Carolina, I would reinstate the solar energy tax credit to allow that industry to continue its second-best-in-the-nation growth that brings higher paying jobs to solar farms in the rural parts of the state. I would also protect our Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard that requires investor owned energy companies to meet up to 12.5% of their energy needs from wind, solar, biomass, or geothermal. Duke Energy depends largely on solar energy to reach that goal and plans to invest $500 million on solar energy in rural North Carolina. The Renewable Energy Portfolio and the solar energy tax credit will allow us to continue as a national leader in solar energy job creation.
To honor God's gift to us of this most beautiful planet and one of the most scenic states in the nation, I would rebuild the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources and reinstate the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Clean Smokestacks Act. I would work with Duke Energy to use the money they saved from their reduced coal ash fine to clean up their 14 leaking coal ash ponds. I would sing the praises the 195 nations that signed onto the recent climate accord in Paris and give President Obama the credit he is deserves for his leadership on this issue.
Perhaps the most important gift I could give all our grandchildren is an independent redistricting commission to draw legislative district lines compliant with the our State Constitutionís requirement that counties remain as whole as possible in the formation of State senate and representative districts. That would stop radical gerrymandering and make many more legislative seats truly competitive.
I donít run the zoo or the General Assembly; but I will continue to work on all these issues. If in 2016, voters elect a Democrat as governor and add four more Democrats to the NC House Ė enough to sustain a governorís veto - we will have a state government more likely to reflect the will of the people.
Last but not least: Itís Christmas, so Iím also thinking about the birth and teachings and example of Jesus: giving to the least of these, loving our neighbor as ourselves, doing unto others as we would have them do unto us Ė regardless of their race, religion, ethnic background, gender or sexual orientation.
Whatever your faith, I wish you Happy Holy Days and a safe, secure and Happy New Year.
As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.