Under the Dome

Dome: Ellmers draws a distinction on Medicare vote

April 18, 2011 

During last fall's campaign Republican congressional candidate Renee Ellmers hammered Democratic U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge for voting to cut Medicare.

One of her TV ads attacked Etheridge for backing the Democrats' health care plan, which makes some future cuts in Medicare.

"Should Congress have cut Medicare a half trillion dollars - to pay for Obamacare?'' the ad asked. "Renee Ellmers says no. She says cutting Medicare hurts senior citizens. Bob Etheridge voted yes. He voted with President Obama and cut Medicare half a trillion dollars. As long as Obama's in the White House, we can't let a Democrat represent us in Congress."

Last week, Ellmers, now representing the 2nd District, voted for a Republican plan that would end Medicare for people under 55, converting it to a "premium support" system in which participants would choose among private plans and the government would pay the first $15,000 in premiums.

Ellmers said there were major distinctions between what she was supporting and what Etheridge voted for.

"President Obama and Washington Democrats took a half a trillion dollars from Medicare and used it to fund Obamacare," Ellmers said in a statement.

"The Path to Prosperity (The Republican Plan) takes it back and uses it to strengthen Medicare," Ellmers said. "This budget does not cut Medicare funding. It makes no changes to Medicare for anyone 55 or older. For those 54 or younger it offers options to plans like those that are currently available to those in Congress and other federal employees, resulting in savings to turn a currently unsustainable program into one that will be there for future generations."

Hackney in Washington

State House Democratic leader Joe Hackney was part of a small group of legislators who met Friday afternoon with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to discuss intergovernmental issues.

Hackney was one of 11 bipartisan leaders of the National Conference of State Legislatures who met with Obama and Biden for about a half-hour, as well as about an hour with other White House aides,

"Some of it was defensive," said Hackney, a former president of the conference.

"Make sure when you do your debt reduction you don't dump on states," Hackney said. "Some of it was asking for more flexibility on things like Medicaid guidelines. There was a lot of talk about the Mainstream Fairness Act, which is the mechanism for sales taxes on Internet sales which are due, but which we can not collect."

UNC-TV faces cut

UNC-TV leaders are pondering the future of public television in the state - without public money.

Proposals out of a House budget subcommittee last week would cut the $12 million state appropriation for the Center for Public Television. That is half of UNC-TV's annual budget and the single biggest source of funding.

Also, a proposed special provision would require the agency's board and the UNC Board of Governors to come up with a plan to operate UNC-TV without state funds by 2014-15. The plan would be due to lawmakers next March.

Steve Volstad, director of communications and marketing, said that without the state appropriation, it would be highly doubtful UNC-TV could sustain a statewide network. More likely, the network would have a presence in a couple of markets - say, the Triangle and Triad, Volstad said.

"Of course the big regret about that would be that then there would be a lot of people in the state who didn't have access to public television," he said.

UNC-TV was criticized for its reporting last year on Alcoa, a private company seeking renewal of rights to control a dam on the Yadkin River. A reporter was fired over the controversy.

The network has 162 employees and 12 transmitters, in addition to other equipment that sends signals into the nooks and crannies of North Carolina.

About 30 percent of the network's funding comes from viewer donations.

But it's highly unlikely UNC-TV could attract enough new contributions to cover the state cut, Volstad said. During the past two years, the network's budget has been reduced by 16 percent, or $2.2 million.

"We really tried very hard to make that up with our private fundraising and didn't," Volstad said. "The odds of being able to do that are remote, I would say."

Staff writers Rob Christensen and Jane Stancill contributed to this report.

rob.christensen@newsobserve.com or 919-829-4532

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