June 1 marks the start of hurricane season, a date North Carolinians know well. But as meteorologists keep a watchful eye on the Atlantic Ocean this summer, my attention will be focused on Washington, D.C., where a powerful storm of legislation is brewing that would make it more difficult to obtain and afford the insurance we need to stay protected against natural disasters.
Every year our state confronts catastrophic hurricane risk, and international-based reinsurers have been there to help the state recover and rebuild. Now, two proposals that may be included in upcoming corporate tax-reform plans seek to shrink North Carolina’s insurance and reinsurance market, leaving our state’s consumers with higher costs for the same insurance coverage. One proposal, crafted by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., and introduced in previous congressional and past administration budget messages, would deny tax deductions to domestic insurers for certain reinsurance premiums paid to foreign-based affiliates.
The other proposal – the border-adjusted tax featured in the Blueprint for Tax Reform by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, – if applied to international reinsurance, would dramatically reduce the supply and increase the price of reinsurance, upon which our state’s economy depends. All this would result in higher premiums for North Carolina residents and businesses.
Global insurers and reinsurers are the bedrock of the insurance and reinsurance market because they diversify their catastrophic risk globally, leading to lower prices and more coverage that benefits the state and national economy. Global reinsurers play an essential role in stabilizing our insurance marketplace; without them, risk concentrations would make it more difficult for domestic insurance companies to cope with an influx of claims following a disaster.
As we prepare for this year’s wave of storms, I urge North Carolina’s congressional delegation to oppose misguided and discriminatory proposals that leave our state vulnerable to higher insurance prices.
North Carolina Commissioner of Labor
Fund finished degrees
In response to the June 3 letter to the editor “Help Students Afford College”: It is interesting that the writer thinks that taxpayers should subsidize loans for poor college students. As a former poor college student who borrowed money to attend college, I can attest that if a student wants to attend college, a will to do so provides a way.
There are too many students who get government funds to attend college but never finish their education. Some become permanent students who get continuous funding and never get a job. I saw examples of this when I was a student at N.C. State University. Some called these people “gradual” students; being students was their profession. I would support funds for students who finish their degrees within four to five years, and if they don’t, they should pay back every cent.
Cutting Governor’s School a ‘poor choice’
Regarding May 21 news article “Alums appeal to keep state funds for summer program”: I have a question for Rep. Craig Horn and other House members. Horn said, “I would like to see the Governor’s School continue. I don’t know if we have the recurring money necessary to do that.”
At a time when North Carolina has a growing economy and a $580 million revenue surplus, why does the General Assembly suddenly lack the $800,000 required to keep the doors open for this highly positive, proven and irreplaceable opportunity for North Carolina’s best and brightest students? This reasoning might have made sense in 2007, or in 1978. But today, the only reason the General Assembly would be unable to find the money to continue the Governor’s School is that they simply chose not to. And that would be a poor choice for thousands of North Carolina students.
‘Support’ Cherry director
I read with much interest the June 2 news article “Psychiatrists earn $230K, plus ‘extended duty’ pay.” As a psychiatrist and former clinical director at Dorothea Dix hospital, I am more familiar with the challenges of staffing state psychiatric hospitals than most. I also worked with Dr. Jim Mayo, the current clinical director at Cherry Hospital for 12 years, when we were both at Dix.
I certainly understand the frustrations of not being able to open the recently completed additional beds at Cherry, given the overwhelming number of psychiatric patients stuck in emergency departments throughout the state. However, in my opinion, the article did not adequately describe the clinical challenges that occur on a daily basis in state psychiatric hospitals.
Having competent, well-trained psychiatrists is essential to providing excellent and safe care in state hospitals. The harsh reality is that it is very difficult to entice mental health professionals, including psychiatrists, to work in a place where they will be treating complex and sometimes violent patients.
I do not think the state could find a more qualified person to be the clinical director of Cherry Hospital than Mayo. He is working very hard at building a high-quality program that people would feel comfortable sending their relatives to. While everyone must be a good steward in terms of taxpayer dollars and open to fair criticism, it is vital to see the big picture and remember past mistakes. Mayo deserves ongoing support as he transforms Cherry Hospital into something of which North Carolina can be proud.
Brian Sheitman, MD
Medical director, UNC Health Care
Keep Confederate symbols
Hats off to the June 1 news article “We shouldn’t remove Confederate symbols; we need to learn from them” and the June 2 op-ed “To learn from the past, keep its monuments” for the insightful responses to removing monuments that commemorate, not celebrate, American history.
I hope, as the articles propose, that the solution to the Confederate symbol issue will become one of enhancing and adding context rather than tearing down or removing. Alongside the statue of Andrew Jackson, why not commission a statue of a Native American? There are so many educational opportunities here.
Fund public schools
Regarding the June 1 news article “NC House rejects attempts to cut funding from private school vouchers and shift it to public schools”: The Wake County Public School System has been called “the goose that laid the golden egg.” Because of the foresight of individuals who helped merge city and county systems, families and companies have moved to Wake County knowing that wherever folks chose to live in Wake , they will have high-quality public schools.
As the county has grown, it has become hard to keep up. Sadly, the North Carolina General Assembly continues to push costs down to the local level as they cut state funding and issue unfunded mandates for traditional public schools. At the same time, the legislative majority is diverting public tax dollars to create more charter schools and to fund vouchers at unaccountable private schools. The legislature is creating a dual system that drains badly needed resources from traditional public schools.
It is precisely because of these actions that Wake County must continue to ensure that the needs of its school system are met. I encourage county commissioners to fully fund Wake County public schools so that they will remain the economic driver for this wonderful county.