Warning Signs in Budget ‘Deal’

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The approach of an agreement to keep North Carolina state government operating with a balanced budget, as required under the state constitution, usually brings at least a sigh of relief. Budgets seldom are approved without plenty of give and take — honest disagreements over spending priorities and how to raise the money. Settling such conflicts in line with the public interest is what representative democracy is all about. This summer, however, with an overdue budget deal said to be just about wrapped up, the outcome might not offer much to…

National Priorities — What Would Jesus Say?

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“Inequality for All,” a documentary with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, considers the priorities of the US over the last century and offers some interesting observations. When has our country prospered and created the most comfort for the most people? How have government regulations affected different people? Who has been helped by the rules and who has been hurt?  Although the film is not presented from a faith perspective, after viewing it three times, I find myself thinking about the sheep and goat story in Matthew 25 with my eyes…

Council Spotlights Education, Opportunity

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The NC Council of Churches aims to exert a positive influence on public policies that have implications for what is commonly known as social justice. What this often boils down to is spotlighting areas of decision-making in which the interests of ordinary residents – people hoping to live healthy, productive, fulfilling lives, sometimes against the odds – hang in the balance. At this moment in North Carolina’s history, could there be any such area more important than the state’s commitment to its public schools, its community colleges, its public universities?…

Choices, Conflicts Amid Budget Squeeze

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First it was Gov. Pat McCrory who tried to fashion a state budget giving teachers a badly needed raise while hamstrung by large tax cuts. Then the N.C. Senate took its turn. Yes, teachers willing to give up their job security could get a pay boost. But the proposed Senate budget fails tests of fairness and adequacy. Now along comes the state House to take still another whack at the budget challenge. While its plan drops a couple of the Senate’s most dubious ideas, when it comes to teacher pay…

Tax Cuts’ Sour Notes

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If a session of the NC General Assembly can be compared to an opera — comedy, farce or tragedy yet to be determined – then the governor’s recommended budget might amount to the overture. It introduces main themes and sets a mood. But there’s no guarantee that the governor and the legislators who are the opera’s singers will end up making music together. As the 2014 legislative session gets under way in Raleigh, the overture is finished and the curtain is rising to reveal a bevy of performers. As usual,…

Buckle Up – Here Comes the Legislature

Photo by Flickr member yashmori

The motto of North Carolina’s General Assembly during the past few years could well have been something like “Never a dull moment!” That’s especially been the case as the economy has muddled through various slumps, none so damaging as the Great Recession from which the state and nation still feel aftershocks in the job market. Setting state budget priorities, which for the legislature amounts to Job No. 1, is never more difficult than when the economy tanks. A scandal here and there – a Democratic House speaker went to prison…

Lutherans Sponsor Conference to Ponder Justice and Faith

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When the line to check in at a church-sponsored conference on a beautiful Saturday morning in April stretches out the door, it’s a sign that the event has generated an impressive level of buzz. For the North Carolina Lutherans, their faith partners and other friends who turned out in strength on April 12, those more predictable Saturday pursuits of grass-mowing, grocery shopping and golf would just have to wait. The event at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Raleigh had an ambitious theme: “Navigating Public Policy Issues Guided by a Moral…

Ending Hunger Through Bread for the World

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I’ve learned over the last year as I’ve worked to complete my Masters of Social Work degree that health and the availability of nutritious food are justice issues with global proportions. Having just completed an extensive research project about international food aid in partnership with a U.S. non-governmental organization for my capstone requirement, I have witnessed first-hand the positive impact nutritious food has on global communities that are affected by chronic hunger. So, when I heard about the recent “Ending Hunger: Compassion Igniting Justice” conference at Christ United Methodist Church in…

Palm Sunday: Poverty & Education by Gene Nichol

A Time to Mend

In recognition of our faithful call and of this time in history, the Council’s annual Lenten guide focuses on poverty and the ways we can respond to our sisters and brothers of low-income. We hope you and your family will find cause for reflection and inspiration for action as you share this intergenerational resource together. May we continue building as a nation toward a place where God’s love is felt by everyone through the meeting of basic human needs and the extension of true opportunities for progress. Click here to…

Common Sense Economics — How the Church Can Help

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Bad news about how we treat hourly workers consumes our headlines daily. Half of fast food workers need public aid.  Tipped workers in the US make $2.13 an hour as base pay and haven’t had a raise since 1991. The federal minimum wage has been below what’s needed to keep a family of three out of poverty since 1980.  Today, half of all jobs pay less than $27,000 per year. Today, 26 million Americans want full-time work but cannot find it. It is like workers are on the Jericho Road and waiting…

Healthy North Carolina 2020: Are We Gaining or Losing Ground?

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Healthy North Carolina 2020 is a health improvement plan for our state. It addresses a wide range of issues that impact our health, such as tobacco use, physical activity and nutrition, mental health, and injury and violence. Optimal goals have been established in each of these areas, with a 2020 deadline for achieving them. So where does North Carolina currently stand? Out of the 40 original health goals, we’ve achieved 3 of them, 13 have improved but are not at the set target, 21 have gotten worse, 2 were not…

Fifth Sunday in Lent: Poverty & Creation

A Time to Mend

In recognition of our faithful call and of this time in history, the Council’s annual Lenten guide focuses on poverty and the ways we can respond to our sisters and brothers of low-income. We hope you and your family will find cause for reflection and inspiration for action as you share this intergenerational resource together. May we continue building as a nation toward a place where God’s love is felt by everyone through the meeting of basic human needs and the extension of true opportunities for progress. Click here to…

Fourth Sunday in Lent: Poverty & Housing Insecurity

A Time to Mend

In recognition of our faithful call and of this time in history, the Council’s annual Lenten guide focuses on poverty and the ways we can respond to our sisters and brothers of low-income. We hope you and your family will find cause for reflection and inspiration for action as you share this intergenerational resource together. May we continue building as a nation toward a place where God’s love is felt by everyone through the meeting of basic human needs and the extension of true opportunities for progress. Click here to…

Theological Conference on Public Policy — April 12

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The call to people of faith through Moral Mondays continues to be felt. On April 12, a daylong conference takes place at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 7000 Creedmoor Road, Raleigh. “Forward Together — God’s Work, Our Hands, Faith in Action” is a theological conference exploring the public policy issues raised by Moral Mondays. The keynote speaker is the Right Rev. Michael Curry of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. Break-out sessions will feature experts on voting rights, education, poverty, and class and racial justice. The Rev. Dr. James Thomas is…

Third Sunday in Lent: Poverty & Hunger

A Time to Mend

In recognition of our faithful call and of this time in history, the Council’s annual Lenten guide focuses on poverty and the ways we can respond to our sisters and brothers of low-income. We hope you and your family will find cause for reflection and inspiration for action as you share this intergenerational resource together. May we continue building as a nation toward a place where God’s love is felt by everyone through the meeting of basic human needs and the extension of true opportunities for progress. Click here to…