- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

August 18

StarNews, Wilmington, North Carolina, on changes to state laws and regulation that could impact tourism:

Tourism in North Carolina is a $20 billion-a-year industry, and that’s only counting what visitors - traveling for recreation or on business - actually spend here. That total does not take into account the total impact as employees and businesses that make a living in tourism pump the money back into the economy.

The $20 billion spent by visitors in 2013 was a record, and more than $1 billion of that total was spent in the Cape Fear region. If there were any doubt about the importance of tourism to this region - and the importance of policies that keep people wanting to come here - that figure should dispel it.

As important as the tourism is, we know that we cannot depend on it and other low-wage service-sector industries for our state’s economic future.

It’s a delicate balance, and many other industries also contribute to the state’s appeal to tourists. Among those is the film industry, which is in danger should lawmakers hold fast to a drastic and detrimental change to the film incentives program.

In addition to creating more than 1,000 permanent jobs in the Cape Fear region alone, incentives that lure filmmakers to the state also bring actors and other crew members - visitors who stay and spend money here - as well as fans who come to Wilmington in hopes of spotting stars or visiting the locations of favorite movies and television shows.

Likewise, historic preservation tax credits that are on their last legs have spurred revitalization in some communities and have encouraged property owners to save and restore older buildings. Gov. Pat McCrory had proposed changes to the program that would put the focus on historic property with the potential to generate revenue and, in turn, to fuel other investment.

Again, neither incentive program directly affects tourists’ decision to vacation in North Carolina.

But they are examples that many seemingly unrelated factors contribute to our state’s healthy tourism economy.




August 16

News and Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina, on Medicaid expansion:

The Republican-led General Assembly plans to address ways to reform Medicaid in its next session, but there’s one thing it won’t do to the program: expand it. This resistance is a scandal and a growing one. It’s well past time for responsible and influential forces in North Carolina - the universities, banks, high-tech businesses, hospitals, clergy and others - to make expanding Medicaid the state’s No. 1 priority.

In 2013, Republican legislative leaders indulged in partisan grandstanding by declaring that North Carolina would be among the 24 states refusing to expand the federal-state health program for low-income people. They also refused to set up a state-run health care marketplace from which North Carolinians could buy subsidized health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Now that Republican partisans have had their year on the ramparts shouting “no!” to what they call “Obamacare,” cooler heads should intervene. The resistance is only hurting North Carolina, especially the working poor who would have qualified for Medicaid under an expansion. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that expansion would insure 319,000 North Carolinians.

And the refusal is not a one-time injury. The cost grows every year.

By saying no, the state gave up $601 million in federal funds in 2014, according to state fiscal researchers. Next year, it will be foregoing $2.3 billion. For 2016 through 2021, the state’s refusal will cost $2.5 billion annually. And there are others costs. Expansion also would pick up the cost of medical care for some mental health patients and state prisoners now paid for entirely by the state. The savings to state taxpayers would be $62 million a year.

Republican leaders have various reasons for turning away billions of Medicaid dollars. Gov. Pat McCrory says the Medicaid system is too “broken” to handle expansion. That’s more of a dodge than a reason. The system needs improvements, but it has worked for decades and likely would gain economies of scale with expansion.

Other Republicans say the state’s share of funding expansion, even at 10 percent, is too expensive. But the influx of federal dollars likely would generate more than enough jobs and increased tax revenue to cover the state’s cost.

Refusing Medicaid expansion is holding North Carolina back. It’s costing jobs and will cost lives.




August 14

News & Record, Greensboro, North Carolina, on destroying ivory stored at the North Carolina Zoo:

Incinerating the 20 pounds of elephant ivory and rhinoceros horns in storage at the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro - and worth $1 million on the black market - seems like a good idea to director David Jones, and to us.

While the stockpile mostly comes from the remains of animals that once lived at the zoo, getting rid of it in such fashion would also be the longtime keeper’s symbolic jab against animal poaching. The illegal and unethical act of killing animals for their parts has so dramatically reduced the herds of elephants and rhinos in Africa that the population might be a human generation from extinction.

Problem is, it’s not up to Jones, who has spent decades in the international zoo world. The N.C. zoological park is a state attraction and there are layers of complication for destroying state property - even that with no legal value. Any other zoo might simply go to its board of directors to get the OK, but the N.C. Zoo is one of two in the country that are state-owned.

Importing virtually all ivory has been banned under a federal law designed to reduce slaughter of endangered elephants. The population has been reduced by about 90 percent just in the last three decades.

That hasn’t slowed the number of elephants and rhinos being lost to criminal enterprise. The pieces are traded for drugs and guns and fuel terrorist activities. Then there’s the seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in China and Vietnam, where it is often handcrafted into fixtures that end up with collectors in the United States.

Hanging onto the stockpile is something of a liability. Although there have not been many thefts in the United States, there have been at least 60 reports of ivory stolen from European museums and private collections. But stranger stories make newspaper headlines, including the $10,000 dinosaur replica stolen from a downtown Raleigh museum.

For the time being, the bounty remains out of the public’s view in an undisclosed location to prevent theft.

Ultimately, it should be destroyed to ensure it’s never stolen and sold overseas.



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