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Opinion Letters

How can you tell if a politician is lying? His lips are moving. It's an old joke, but, as with most humor, there is some truth. When the Republicans took over governing N.C. in 2010, they made many promises. So how did it work out?

The conservative battle cry was, "We will cut your taxes." So, in the next few years the largest tax cuts in modern history of North Carolina were enacted. All these cuts were based on the theory that big tax breaks for wealthy individuals and big corporations would generate greater tax revenue.

So far, just this year, N.C. state tax revenue is down more than $630 million, and most experts expect that deficit to get even worse by the end of this fiscal year. And when the second set of tax breaks take effect next year, the state will be even deeper in the hole. There will be less money for schools, roads, public safety, the court system, health care and everything else. And, by the way, unless your income was over $87,000, your overall taxes went up.

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Western North Carolina is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The majestic mountains, the lush green forests and valleys, the small family farms, waterfalls, rivers, streams, along with the pristine sky all inspire us on a daily basis. We treasure this natural abundance, and like all inheritance, we must be wise stewards for our future generations.

Unfortunately, there is a fundamental threat to all of this: hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” This could destroy it all.

Fracking is an industrial process using millions of gallons of our pristine mountain water mixed with toxic chemicals pumped underground at extremely high pressure to break apart natural gas-infused shale rock thousands of feet below the surface.

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Senator Jim Davis and other Republican state legislators voted not to expand Medicaid in N.C. Early studies showed this would be a costly mistake for N.C. However, a new study completed by the largest non-profit organization devoted entirely to advancing health care for the public, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, shows just how costly this would be for N.C. N.C will lose $51 billion in federal funding between 2013-2022. The N.C. portion of Medicaid expansion totals $3.1 billion. The report shows that for every $1 a state invests in Medicaid, it will receive $13.41 in Federal funds.

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I recently had the privilege of speaking before the Macon County Board of Commissioners on the subject of hydraulic fracturing. To be clear, while I am opposed to the current legislation, I do believe that natural gas is a key transition fuel to a sustainable energy future. In this letter I want to address some of the issues and questions raised by the supporters of the current legislation.

One asked why we should be concerned when hundreds of wells have been fracked in Macon County over the years. While this is undoubtedly true, it is both misleading and irrelevant to the current discussion. These were drinking water wells with vertical bores and the materials used were not toxic. By contrast, compounds such as kerosene, 2- butoxyethanol or any of hundreds of other toxic chemicals are used for gas and oil well fracking.

Another speaker (and subsequent letter writer) asked why the opposition to fracking has only emerged in the last three to four years, while the practice of hydraulic fracturing has been around for over 60 years. This is an important and relevant question. A little research has provided the answer to that question.

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