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Carolina Journal Radio No. 914: N.C. voters tackle taxes, bonds, alcohol measures

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai
The Truth Network Radio
November 23, 2020 8:00 am

Carolina Journal Radio No. 914: N.C. voters tackle taxes, bonds, alcohol measures

Carolina Journal Radio / Donna Martinez and Mitch Kokai

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November 23, 2020 8:00 am

Elections for president, U.S. Senate, and governor grabbed the headlines. But North Carolinians addressed many other items during the recent election, including local referendums on issues such as taxes, bonds, and alcohol. Joseph Coletti, John Locke Foundation senior fellow, analyzes the results of local referendum votes across the state. While Democrat Joe Biden has declared victory in the presidential race, President Trump appeared to claim North Carolina’s electoral votes. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper won re-election, but Republicans secured significant victories in other statewide races. In an online forum nearly one week after Election Day, GOP political consultant Jonathan Felts and Democratic counterpart Brad Crone assessed state and federal election results for a John Locke Foundation audience. You’ll hear highlights. COVID-19 has presented plenty of economic challenges, especially for those who lost their jobs in government shutdowns tied to the pandemic. During a JLF online forum, Ryan Ray of Jobs for Life discussed ongoing job-related challenges linked to the coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic has created special challenges — and opportunities — for cities across the country. Co-founder Greg Brooks of the Better Cities Project discussed recently for a JLF audience his group’s efforts to address important issues tied to the life-altering pandemic. With Cooper winning re-election, he’s likely to continue pushing counterproductive energy and environmental policies, Donald van der Vaart, John Locke Foundation senior fellow and former secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, previews Cooper’s likely approach to energy and the environment in a second term.

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From Cherokee to Kuretuk, from the largest city to the smallest town, and from the statehouse to the schoolhouse, it's Carolina Journal Radio, your weekly news magazine discussing North Carolina's most important public policy events and issues. Welcome to Carolina Journal Radio, I'm Mitch Kocai. During the next hour, Donna Martinez and I will explore some major issues affecting our state. North Carolina voters backed President Trump and Republican Senator Thom Tillis.

They also re-elected Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. Professional consultants from opposite sides of the political aisle offer their assessments of Election 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic threw millions of people out of their jobs. We'll hear from the head of a group working with the people who have the hardest time returning to the workforce. The coronavirus has led to life-altering changes for cities across the country. We'll learn how a group called the Better Cities Project is trying to help communities adapt to change. And we'll take a closer look at Governor Cooper's likely approach to energy and environmental policies in a second term.

Those topics are just ahead. First, Donna Martinez joins us with the Carolina Journal headline. Election night 2020 was not only good news for Republicans in the General Assembly who were overwhelmingly returned to the legislature, keeping their majorities in both chambers, but it was also a good night for bonds and for boos as counties and towns decided a variety of local issues.

Joe Coletti is senior fellow with the John Locke Foundation. He's been following the local election results and joins us to talk about what voters decided to do and not to do on election night. Joe, welcome back.

Glad to be here. Let's talk about trends first. What did we see across our state? Anything that really popped out at you as, hey, we're thinking this or we're not so hot on this idea?

Yeah, two things stood out. One, that voters were more than happy to have more things, whether that was alcohol available to them or whether that was projects paid for by bonds. What they were less enthused about was giving counties the authority to raise sales taxes to pay for those things. I guess the message might be counties do these things, make things available, but figure out a way to pay for that without trying to increase taxes through the sales tax and make your decisions properly based on that. Let's talk more about the sales tax issue because this has been going on for a number of years now in North Carolina. Usually, every election cycle, we see some county, multiple counties put on the ballot a hike in the sales tax. Some counties have actually done it more than once, and you've been detailing that. But interesting that if North Carolinians really don't like that idea, is it because we all know we're directly affected?

You go buy something, you're going to pay a little bit more money. It's interesting. The big trend is that the more people who vote, the greater the turnout in an election, the worse the sales tax referenda do.

Really? In the primaries, you had about, there are eight of them on the ballot, and they split half and half. There are five of them on the ballot this time. They overwhelmingly lost, except in the allocating county, which lost by 22 votes.

Who are those 22 people? The lesson from it is that what people have seen across the state is that the sales tax does not have a specific use, regardless of what county commissioners say, and they've seen it abused multiple times. We've spoken in the past about what happened in Buncombe County in Asheville, where the county commissioner said, we're going to use this money to pay for the community college. Instead, they put the money into their general fund, and it took until the previous county manager was arrested and replaced that the interim county manager said, y'all don't have enough money anyway, even after you're doing all of these things. I think there's a lot of suspicion of what is going to be done with the sales and use tax revenues, in addition to the fact that you know that that's coming out of every purchase that you make. So many times, Joe, these sales tax hikes are put forth by county commission saying, hey, it's for the kids. We're going to use it for education, but they are not required to stick to that if they say that.

Right. There is no requirement, no obligation for anything that they do with the money. We've seen on the bond side that people are willing to pass bonds to take care of the needs of school districts, as long as they're convinced of that. So potentially, they're more willing to say, we'll pay the higher property tax, recognizing that the property tax, just like the sales tax, is paid for by everybody in the community, but leaving the responsibility to the county commissioners to be responsible with that, because the sales tax provides, in most places, is worth a couple cents of the property tax.

And that's not how much of a property tax most places look to increase. In terms of the bonds, borrowing money, essentially. So that comes with debt.

You have to pay that back. It looks like it was transportation and affordable housing that caught voters' attention. How did those do?

Yeah. In Charlotte and in Raleigh, in Raleigh, in both places, they had affordable housing. In Charlotte, they had some road projects. There were bonds for schools in Guilford and Carteret. Both of them had sales tax on their ballot as well. And in Camden, and so all of those really did well. And there were also other bond projects. The only bond that that failed was in Cape Carteret, where they were looking to build a trail.

But there are some pool in Cullowhee, in Jackson County, some park facilities in other places. So voters overwhelmingly said, go ahead and build these things. And whether that was a COVID, we just want to be out and we want new things. Yes, we want more roads. Take care of them.

We want to get out on the road. Jill, obviously, if you borrow money, whether it's in your personal situation, borrow money to buy a house, you have to pay it back with interest. Same thing goes for bonds for infrastructure or housing. What about the long-term implications?

Are these good deals for the communities? That is what the question remains. And what will happen when these bonds start to be, have to be paid? Right now, everybody's probably looking at, we have low interest rates and how and they can and they'll and everybody's expecting that they'll stay low. But bonds aren't issued for months after they're approved.

They still have to be approved by the county commissioners to go forward. And then they have to be sold in the market. And then who knows what happens with. So so there's expectation, I guess, from everybody that the economy will continue to do well, that property values will continue to go up and that the all of this can be paid for appropriately. And that's the question that remains. And I guess that's why folks are saying no to the sales and use tax, because they know that that's not going to be used properly or they have an expectation.

And so if it's coming out of the property tax, they know that the county commissioners in general will will have to face face voters more on that. Let's talk about alcohol in North Carolina. This is the strangest thing, how we handle alcohol in our state. Anyway, I came from Arizona and I didn't know what an ABC store was.

I thought that was like, you know, a Belk or something. It took me a while to figure out, oh, that's a government booze store. So alcohol was on the ballot in what way? Well, because of because of the way that North Carolina deals with with alcohol, you can have a county that does not allow in general alcohol sales, but then you can have towns within those counties that do allow sales. And and there were five towns and cities across a number of counties that had the the ability to sell alcohol on the ballot and to create a new a local ABC board and allow different things, whether that was malt beverages, which is like beer and seltzers, whether that was unfortified wine, because there's also fortified wine which gets taxed at a different rate or whether that was mixed beverages or other things.

But all of the all of the opportunities that places were looking for to sell alcohol were approved by large margins across the state. So are there still places in North Carolina then where an adult cannot buy booze? Right.

Yeah. There are there are a number of towns. And in addition, there is not a place there is not a county where you cannot someplace in the county by it.

But there are still a number of counties that are mostly dry, except for a few towns in those towns within the county are still dry. And a lot of this dates back to the prohibition days. And our colleague John Sanders has written a lot about the issue of how alcohol is handled in North Carolina. You can find that work and also Joe Coletti's work on local government. All of that at Joe Coletti is senior fellow with the John Locke Foundation. Thank you for joining us, Joe.

Thanks. Stay with us much more Carolina Journal radio to come in just a moment. Tired of fake news?

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I'm Mitch kokai. expert analysts are trying to make sense of the 2020 election. A pair of them from opposite sides of the political aisle recently shared their views in an online presentation for the john lock foundation.

Jonathan felts is a republican consultant who worked as a political director for George W. Bush. Everyone's trying to oversimplify everything people want to say democrats are trying to sell a message that hey, this is just a function of the Trump coattails Trump had a huge turnout going on. And that's that's what made the difference here. Others want to say that it was a total reaction just completely against the protest following a supporting loan order message.

And the fact is, all these things can be true to a degree. But I think that if you wanted to simplify it down to one kind of little catchphrase, it would be that a lot of folks outside of the elitist enclaves in some of our major urban areas, they felt like they were told for six months, you can't go to church. And oh, by the way, if you try to go to church, you know, some people in the left will actually consider you to be a potential murderer in that you're trying to form a super spreader event yet the same people that had been lecturing people for months and months and months about COVID and how you couldn't go to church because of COVID. They couldn't say a single thing in terms of, hey, major riots, major protests, whether they be downtown Raleigh or uptown Charlotte or wherever they might be, those can be super spreader events, just like a Donald Trump rally, there could be potential for for COVID spread at one of those rallies.

Well, guess what, if you have just as many people crammed into downtown Raleigh, that can also have the same potential. And when people were ignoring that on for for political gain, it seemed like that I think it really resonated and really caused a lot of blowback with a lot of folks. And to be clear, I think COVID needs to be taken very seriously. I've got two parents with pre-existing conditions. My wife and I are constantly juggling our schedules so as to make sure someone is in the clear, so to speak, to be able to help out if we need to do that.

Her mom has a pre-existing condition as well. And so I take it very seriously. But again, the fact that Roy Cooper just constantly lecturing and hectoring people on, in effect, I mean, his whole campaign was Dan Forster too ignorant to understand COVID and therefore people that support him are too. People resented that when he couldn't bring himself to say, hey, major protests, major gatherings, even if you're supporting a Democrat or Democrat principals, that can still be bad from a COVID perspective. And I think you saw a lot of reaction to that on Election Day. Results looked good on election night for most North Carolina Republicans. What does that mean for Democrats? Consultant Brad Krohn addressed that topic.

That's where the soul searching begins. I don't think the Democrat, they're moving more and more liberal every single day, more and more to the left. They've used the same model for the last five elections at the statewide level for legislative elections and it hadn't worked.

You look at the performance map. There is a sea of red with about five islands of blue all around your metropolitan division. My point to the Democrats has been this. If you want to govern, build a coalition beyond your metropolitan boundaries. The donor base is sitting there saying, where's the return on investment? Well, the fact of the matter is, is that Democrats don't have any type of operation to put them in contention in a district like Johnston and Nash County and Senate District 11 or down into the Cabarrus County House seats. And until they put that infrastructure in place and have a message that the voters are willing to buy, they're going to continue to see a electoral defeat. That's Brad Krohn, a Democrat who has worked as a campaign consultant for candidates in both parties.

He and Republican Jonathan Feltz offered expert analysis during a recent online presentation for the John Locke Foundation. Feltz focused on one piece of the Democrats message that didn't seem to work. Medicaid expansion, you know, if you push Democrats, that's going to be the one thing they consistently kept focusing on was Medicaid expansion. I've been back in North Carolina since 2013. I just keep hearing that, you know, that's been the constant theme.

And I think that one thing they need to recognize is I think if you get outside of the, you know, again, these urban enclaves of elitism, a lot of folks just simply they don't they don't really know what that means. And I think this was the wrong year to be running, holding up a government program as, hey, this will be the panacea that's going to fix everything for North Carolinians. And, you know, so I'm completely ignoring any facts and figures or whatnot, just from a perceptionist reality. You know, the fact is this year, more than just about any other year, as you go across North Carolina, if you weren't dealing with children, dealing with remote learning, you had a good friend who was. And so the thing that we had all taken for granted, our schools are always going to work.

Well, the schools, you know, they were suffering just like everything else was, except that was impacting people just about more than actual, you know, catching COVID, if you will. And so so if you're holding up, hey, this government program is going to work, that's going to be the panacea for us. And then, you know, the average voters look around saying, well, this other government program school that's always worked, it's not working at all for me right now. And so I think I think the Democrats definitely need a more substantive, substantive message. Crone agreed his fellow Democrats need to deliver a different message. Here's the message that they need to hear that voters in North Carolina won't school choice. They want to have the options to send their kids to the school that they think is going to provide them the best opportunity to get an education so they can be productive and prosperous in the 21st century. The Republican felt had some thoughts about choices.

Donald Trump, you know, love him or hate him. One of the things he can be fairly faulted for is that he definitely takes very much of an all or nothing approach. But I would argue that in this campaign season, Democrats presented an all or nothing approach.

You got to be totally with us on all these issues or you're against it, so to speak. And I think Republican candidates were presenting a more nuanced message. It's hard to use the word nuance with any kind of campaign tactics this day and age, I feel like. But they were giving people a choice of, yeah, we get it.

There might be it might be some middle ground somewhere in there. And so and not not every Republican was by any stretch. But I think in these swing districts, they definitely were. Crone suggests his fellow Democrats need to learn some lessons. I think they need to have people run in the campaigns to understand the state, not necessarily bringing in a bunch of 25 year old young people who've never set foot in the state.

An example of that was with Scott Brewer, who was a state rep, got defeated down in Rockingham and Richmond and Montgomery counties. His campaign manager showed up for work and said, called and asked where do you want us? Where do you want me?

Meet it for you to meet me. So we'll meet me at the office campaign headquarters on Main Street in Rockingham. So a couple of hours later, the young man calls back and says, I'm in Reedsville. What was what was the address again?

He was over in Rockingham County. So you've got to have people who know the state of North Carolina. You know, our motto is Essequan Videri, to be rather than the same. And Democrats have got to start learning that a pro-left agenda is not going to move the voters in North Carolina. If Democrats want to compete, they've got to have a message where the centrist moderate voters, unaffiliated persuadable voters have an opportunity to support them and to build out a base of support to build out a winning campaign. An example of that is Medicaid expansion. Many times have they been told at the ballot box, we're not going to expand Medicaid in the state of North Carolina. If you want to provide affordable health care insurance coverage for working families in North Carolina, then sit there and compromise and work with them to find some type of measure that will help people rather than sitting around saying, no, we're going to argue with you all day long. Speaking of compromise, it's an issue that also attracts felt's attention. One of the frustrations, I think, that a lot of folks in the middle feel about a woke culture is the demand for instant acquiescence. There's very little education effort that suddenly just boom, here we are. This is what we think.

You need to agree with us right now. And like I said, I think it's getting a lot more press on the left right now, but I think that happens both on the left and the right. And I think all political candidates need to be aware of that, make sure they're not, it comes across as very condescending in my opinion. But it also gets back to the point of, you know, campaigns are now 24-7, they never really go dormant. And so it's really critical that if you're a politician, you need, or any sort of leader, you need to be constantly messaging what your message is throughout the process.

You might need to start small and then work up to a much bigger end goal and whatnot. And so many times here in North Carolina, we think everything can be fixed with, you know, the last 30 days of the election, when we drop our mail, put up our digital, things like that, or we'll show up, work things out behind closed doors at a General Assembly meeting and then it all gets taken care of. And so I think, I think voters are demanding more and more accountability and they want more and more answers, not just a simple, you know, telling, telling, telling the voter how they need to think from the very get go. That's Republican consultant Jonathan Feltz. You also heard from Democrat Brad Krohn, recent speakers for a John Locke Foundation online forum. It analyzed key messages from Election 2020. We'll return with more Carolina Journal Radio in a moment. If you love freedom, we've got great news to share with you. Now you can find the latest news, views and research from conservative groups across North Carolina, all in one place. North Carolina It's one stop shopping for North Carolina's freedom movement at North Carolina You'll find links to John Locke Foundation blogs on the day's news, reporting and quick takes, Carolina Journal Radio interviews, TV interviews featuring CJ reporters and Locke Foundation analysts, opinion pieces and reports on higher education from the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, commentary and polling data from the Civitas Institute and news and views from the North Carolina Family Policy Council. That's right.

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I'm Mitch Kochai. COVID-19 forced millions of people out of their jobs. And there are plenty of challenges linked to re-entering the workforce. A recent John Locke Foundation online forum highlighted the challenges.

Among the speakers, Ryan Ray, President and CEO of Jobs for Life. We're on the other side of the information age, right? It would appear that because of technology and social media, we are more connected than ever. But we have so much right at our hands at our disposal now that this, we don't need to seek for information anymore, right?

We don't need to seek. We have this sense that we're loved and cared for, right? And we get that in how many likes or views we get from video posts and things of that nature.

And so we've just become way too reliant on a sense. And I think that's a great way to put it, this sense of community and tight-knitness. We feel like, you know, I tell people like if you want to know what's going on with me or inform me of something, you probably should have put it on Facebook. That's not where I'm going to get my information, but so many people are, right? And if you don't get there, it's like you're almost disconnected now if you're not in the social media world.

And so, yeah, in a time where we seem so much more connected, virtually at least, I believe we're more disconnected than ever before. When we look at someone entering Jobs for Life, if they've been, you know, short-term, particularly long-term unemployed, they're in an identity crisis, right? They're really, really struggling with, man, I have not deployed my gifts and talents.

I have not provided for my family, right? They're really, really struggling with some things. And so, you know, we're in this season now of mental health awareness. You know, most people probably have a little bit of some mental health things, right? And we've looked at that as kind of this, it's just had such a negative connotation to it, but we've all got something that we're struggling with a bit. And so anxiety or fear, we like to go all the way to alcoholism or homelessness and, but I mean, just anxiety, you know, fear, you know, how someone responds to you when you're not performing, like all of those things, I think, contribute.

And so, yeah, there's the big things that are obvious, but I think there are a lot of factors, again, particularly around that mental health space that we may not really, really pay attention to that makes it even wider than we probably consider. After a near fatal car accident, myself losing everything and starting from starting all over from scratch, if you will, you know, two things begin to change my life and gave me hope because I believe hope is what we're after. And it was information and associations. You know, I had a mentor come into my life and he said, look, hang out, let's get you some better information. Let's begin to start changing your thinking by the way you're applying information to your life.

And then to help keep you encouraged through that, put the, got to put the right people around you. That's Ryan Ray, president and CEO of Jobs for Life and a featured speaker for a John Locke Foundation online forum. It tackled job challenges in North Carolina. We'll return with more Carolina Journal Radio in a moment. We're doubling down on freedom.

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I'm Mitch Kogai. COVID-19 has created challenges for all of us. That includes the people who run city governments across the country and North Carolina. A group called the Better Cities Project is trying to help.

Co founder and President Greg Brooks took part in a recent online forum sponsored by the John Locke Foundation. We think everybody in America's largest cities should live a freer and happier life. And the way to get there, as we see it is to help our core audience of city council members, mayor senior level staff in the country's largest city, find practical, implementable and ultimately market savvy public policy. The Better Cities Project is drafted a new report responding to COVID-19.

The report was written as a response to the pandemic, because my colleague and co founder of BCP, Patrick Dewey, and I were, were talking through the impact. And the thing that stood out to both of us immediately was that the country is full of cities that were, if not outright struggling, then very close to the point where they were struggling at three and a half percent unemployment. What happens to a city like that, like that when unemployment is at 10 11 15%?

I live in Las Vegas, where the unemployment is very close to 30% right now. And so a lot of a lot of our recommendations are built around. They're all built around the pandemic in the sense that pandemic is a triggering event. However, everything in the report, in terms of policy suggestions, they're all ideas that we would encourage cities to adopt at any time because they lead to better outcomes for the both for the people who need to manage the city, and the people who need to live there.

Brooks says cities have adopted a range of responses to the pandemic. There are cities that are being very fiscally prudent and sort of tapping into a bit of seed corn, if you will, to get get through this crisis. And there are larger cities that are, if not explicitly than implicitly making decisions based around the idea of a federal bailout. In my time working with local government officials, I found that one of the strongest draws is this urge in a crisis or in something that you're worried will become a crisis to do something, right?

There's there's immense political pressure. What's the city doing to help the people who are in distress? What's the city doing to help the businesses? And this, this is actually not one example, but two examples of what doing something responsibly looks like. Doing something right now in the form of, well, what we have to do is go, go offer a 30 year tax abatement to somebody to build a sky, who says they're going to build a skyscraper or an entertainment district downtown. That that's the wrong is doing something to, well, you know, we would be more resilient if, if during all of this, somehow we'd had that transit system passed on 20 years ago.

So let's put that back on the table. Those types of things are the wrong things right now. The two smartest things that I think city officials can do, end to the budget, resist the urge to raise taxes, and get out of the way of citizens who are trying their best to do whatever it takes to get through this. That has big ramifications for things like gig economy, where being able to start a business and work from home, things like that.

Right now, there are an immense number of families trying to decide where their next meals are coming from in a couple of weeks because their income is that tenuous. And any little bit of viscosity that we can get out of the way at City Hall that makes it easier for people to be fluid and dip and dive as they need to is going to be economically positive, but politically positive. That's Greg Brooks of the Better Cities Project. He discussed the role cities can play in helping entrepreneurs. I was an entrepreneur for 15 years. I appreciate any time city wants to help help a business grow. One of the things that's really important for a city, not just short term during the pandemic, but longer term with these small startups. I'm not talking about JCPenney deciding whether or not they want to come to town, but the person who wants to start a hot dog cart or the person who wants to work from home on a side hustle or drive Uber. All of those type of businesses grow where they're planted. We're researching the gig economy right now at the Better Cities Project.

And one of the things we found is that there is virtually no venue shopping. We had thought, well, maybe a lower regulatory environment will boost the gig economy. And the reality is it doesn't really boost or lower it because people are going to start these very small businesses wherever they live typically. But as their business grows beyond the working out of the garage stage and they have a chance to venue shop, it's that early experience with the city and whether or not they feel like they're getting a fair shake and a flexible shake in their community that helps them decide whether or not they're going to stay.

Brooks emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind about various public policy options. That includes housing and the debate about so-called auxiliary dwelling units or ADUs. There are multiple paths to get to the same strategic goal. Your strategic goal should be a resilient, robust housing supply because cities where housing is affordable and relatively easy to put up are cities that are more economically resilient and generally do better during all sorts of crises, not just COVID. That might look like ADUs in one part of the city. It might look like allowing multi-unit apartment buildings to be built where there was previously a single family neighborhood and now a couple of empty lots.

There are different paths to get here. I'm a big believer in ADUs, but they're not a panacea. I like that I am hearing that you recognize that density and more housing stock is needed. Yeah, I'm an optimist by nature, and I assume that every elected official I meet is, I start with the assumption they are doing what they believe is best for their city. Brooks cautioned against throwing a lot of money toward expensive transit projects. I am not one of those wild-eyed transit is always bad guys. But what I will say for any city is that transit is always a liability and not an asset.

Unless you're somehow magically enabled to build a new fixed rail subway system underneath Manhattan, chances are your transit system will just add to your expenses for the next 20 to 40 years. So I'm really, really pleased to see not just the sole focus on the big ticket stuff. We have to build a thing. What should city governments be doing in this time of economic uncertainty linked to COVID-19? What I heard was fiscal responsibility, an eye toward not making it more difficult for Joe and Jane's citizens to go about their lives when times are probably pretty complicated already.

And I, you know, I heard a range of ideas that in other cities might not make sense, but seem to make sense for your specific communities. And that's, you know, there's nothing more powerful than thinking past the current crisis to getting out of the fire bucket brigade mode and thinking to, okay, if this has befallen us and if change is baked into the mix, what kind of change do we want to see? In this time, success looks like helping your citizens get through day to day reality.

That's Greg Brooks, co-founder and president of the Better Cities Project, a recent speaker in an online forum for the John Lott Foundation. We'll return with more Carolina Journal Radio in a moment. Real influence, you either have it or you don't. And at the John Lott Foundation, we have it. You'll find our guiding principles in many of the freedom forward reforms of the past decade here in North Carolina. So while others talk or complain or name call, we provide research solutions and hope. Our team analyzes the pressing issues of the day, jobs, health care, education and more. We look for effective ways to give you more freedom, more options, more control over your life. Our goal is to transform North Carolina into a growing, thriving economic powerhouse, the envy of every other state. Our research has helped policymakers make decisions that ensure you keep more of what you earn, expand your choice of schools for your kids, widen your job opportunities, improve your access to doctors, the recipe for stability and a bright future. For truth, for freedom, for the future of North Carolina, we are the John Lott Foundation. Welcome back to Carolina Journal Radio.

I'm Donna Martinez. Governor Roy Cooper's Clean Energy Plan is all about alleviating global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, plug in electric vehicles as well as solar power and even wind. Those are key components of this plan.

So should we expect to see more of all of these during Governor Cooper's second term in office? Don Vandervoort is the senior fellow looking at energy policy here at the John Lott Foundation. He joins us to talk about exactly what is in the governor's energy plans. Don, welcome to the program.

Thanks for having me. Is Roy Cooper's plan, which he calls the Clean Energy Plan, is that essentially a state version of what we hear about from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the Green New Deal? It is in a lot of respects. It is not a plan that's going to reduce greenhouse gases or alleviate climate change or global warming. However, neither is the Green New Deal. So yeah, there are similarities.

One is much at a global sort of level and Cooper's is kind of a watered down version. That's really interesting you would say that because isn't the mission of the plan to do what you just said it's not going to do? Well, certainly the ostensible mission is to do that. I'm not even sure the ostensible mission of the Green New Deal is to do that. I think they're much more open about the fact that they're trying to restructure our economic model here in America to make it more of a socialist type model. And if you go all the way to the U.N., the U.N. is quite open about that.

I think Cooper has a harder time maybe pushing it in that context. And so they're still pretending like it might have some impact on the environment. Let's talk about some of the key pieces of the governor's plan. One of them is electric vehicles. What does he intend to do and why is it that is so prominent in his plan? Well, it may be that there is something he can actually do about that in terms of telling his agencies to direct their expenditures for automobiles along buying electric vehicles instead of regular spark ignition gasoline engines. So he has some control over that. He has no control over what you and I drive. The Green New Deal would allow that, but he doesn't have that kind of authority. The governor in North Carolina is not in an extremely powerful position.

So it's really more virtue signaling than anything else. So is he really talking about the state fleet, the fleet of vehicles? Is that what he wants to go all electric?

Sure. He's going to try to, and I would have thought that there's some budgetary constraints, some shellings that would have to be made, but with an executive order, I presume it is possible for agencies when they have to buy more vehicles that they can go electric in many circumstances. And we've talked before and I've written on the fact that electric vehicles really don't make any sense from the environmental standpoint, at least not now, not while the marginal additional power needed to power those vehicles would come from fossil fuels. Just to give you an example, China and India both are very interested in electric vehicles, but neither of them have domestic hydrocarbon supplies. They have to import a lot of it. So for them, it makes economic sense to replace gasoline with coal. And that's what they're doing. They're building coal-fired power plants to provide the additional electricity that they need to power your new electric vehicle. And that makes sense from their standpoint. Coal is cheap and they won't have to spend as many of their dollars importing oil. That's not the case here. It's an important point, I think, to help people understand that it may sound really great to say, okay, we're going to go all electric with the state fleet. But then the question comes up, how do you charge them up and where do you do that? Explain that.

Right. And so clearly you can, you know, years ago we had a bit of a fire drill like this. We wanted to go over to natural gas-fired transportation vehicles. Now, one of the problems with that is you have to fill your trunk with a tank because you can't condense natural gas in a motor vehicle. So you had a big tank in your trunk. Your point was, well, wait a minute, where do we fill that up? And so you could have natural gas depots at our state motor pools. But if you had to drive to Asheville, you wouldn't be guaranteed of coming back. And so there was problems there. The same thing is going to happen here. Now, Duke would like possibly being told to build a lot of these charging stations and they'll be able to make money off of that, but we're not there yet. And so, yeah, there's going to be limited range capabilities going forward. And, you know, so the agencies will be in the position to say, yeah, I know you want me to buy an electric vehicle, but I don't know if it makes sense.

We don't know if we're going to be stranded down the highway there trying to get back to Raleigh. Interesting. You also have talked about recently that Governor Cooper has made a pretty big move when it comes to wind power.

Tell us about that. So just to give you a little background, offshore wind, you know, just when you thought solar was the most expensive energy source, actually offshore wind is even more expensive and there are no commercial offshore wind plants on the East Coast today. There is a pilot project off the coast of Virginia that they're evaluating and that's going to, it generates something like 12 megawatts when they're all at full capacity, which is very rarely the time. So now, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina governors have signed some kind of an agreement that they're going to try to push for offshore wind. And, you know, their problems with that, you know, when they tried to do that off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, folks, landowners there, which I guess wasn't President Obama yet, but other landowners, including the Kennedys, stopped that.

They didn't want to have to look at these massive 500-foot windmills off of their pristine coast. Apparently, North Carolina is not so favored in Cooper's eyes. He's going to see if he can't put some off the shores of Wilmington and off of Nags Head.

Now they are pushing him out to, at least some, are pushing him out to about 27 miles, which is about the viewshed, but that's something to keep a close eye on. The other issue is, you know, this is a news alert, but there are hurricanes on the East Coast, especially on the mid-Atlantic states. Wind farms have a difficult time with hurricanes and that's one of the reasons we haven't seen the kind of proliferation of offshore wind that you'll see, for example, if you go to my native Holland, where there are a lot of offshore wind farms. Now solar power also is a key component of this.

Tom, we just have a few moments left here. Give us the overview. Why is North Carolina at the top of the list, or near the top, when it comes to solar farms and solar power? The short answer is, is why is North Carolina outpacing all the other states other than California? It's because of our incentives. Our incentives are outpacing all of the other states other than California.

It's rational behavior. If you can get taxpayers and customers of Duke Electricity to pay for a large fraction of your profit, then why wouldn't you try to develop that? And that's, in fact, the situation here in North Carolina. We're talking about the clean energy plan here. It's Governor Cooper's plan.

Don has written extensively about that at Don Vandervoort, thanks so much. Thank you.

That's all the time we have for the show this week. Thank you for listening. On behalf of my co-host, Mitch Kokai, I'm Donna Martinez. Hope you'll join us again next week for more Carolina Journal Radio. Carolina Journal Radio is a program of the John Locke Foundation. To learn more about the John Locke Foundation, including donations that support programs like Carolina Journal Radio, send e-mail to development at or call 1-866-JLF-INFO.

That's 1-866-553-4636. Carolina Journal Radio is a co-production of the John Locke Foundation, North Carolina's free market think tank, and Carolina Broadcasting System, Incorporated. All opinions expressed on this program are solely those of the participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of advertisers or the station. For more information about the show or other programs and services of the John Locke Foundation, visit or call us toll free at 1-866-JLF-INFO. We'd like to thank our wonderful radio affiliates across North Carolina and our sponsors. From all of us at Carolina Journal Radio, thank you for listening and please join us again next week.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-25 15:35:48 / 2024-01-25 15:53:52 / 18

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