Coal ash and potable water. The Department of Environmental Quality has told Duke Energy it must dig up and close all of their coal ash basins across the state by 2024. Mark kicks off the show speaking with NC Department of Environmental Quality Assistant Secretary Tom Reeder about their efforts. Sec. Reeder tells Mark why there is a risk from coal ash basins. He says proper excavation of the basins is necessary in many cases to make sure water supplies remain clean. He tells Mark dealing with this issue has been a problem for a long time – in fact, Sec. Reeder says the coal ash ponds have been around since the Eisenhower administration and each gubernatorial administration has been kicking the can down the road until Governor McCrory. He’d just started looking for a solution when the Dan River incident occurred. This is a fantastic interview with a lot of information.
Next, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison joins Mark to discuss the 287(g) program. Mark asks why the program was first put in place. Sheriff Harrison explains when he was first elected to office, he worried about letting people back onto the streets that were wanted for more serious offenses elsewhere. He says he met with the local Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office and they worked on the 287(g) program which allows police to ask for documentation from people they arrest. Sheriff Harrison explains they do not ask for documentation from anyone who is not under arrest. He says there are more good people coming here to work than there are those who want to do harm. Mark asks if he could ask for anything from state lawmakers, what would he request? Sheriff Harrison says more help for the mentally ill, funds for supplies and training and a little more in all first responder’s paychecks.
In the second hour, Civitas Executive Vice President Brian Balfour joins Mark. Mark asks if Brian thinks the Senate will be as quick in passing a budget as the House. Brian says there will be a lot of similarities between the two budgets with the exception of the timeline on income tax reductions. Mark asks about raises for state workers and teachers. Brian explains the raise for teachers is broken down by experience level with the newly-hired receiving approximately two percent increases. Mark asks if he thinks the Senate will have any issues with the two percent increase for state workers. Brian says with the four percent increase being recommended for teachers, it’s doubtful the Senate would lower that amount. Brian goes on to share with Mark other items in the budget which he says is unnecessary funding that could be more useful going toward other purposes.
Finally, Chief House Budget Writer, Wake County Rep. Nelson Dollar joins Mark to discuss the $22.2 billion House proposal. Mark asks how the House was able to come to an agreement so quickly. Rep. Dollar says the two chambers coming to an agreement on a spending cap was significant. He says they also just had to make tweaks to the second year of the budget they agreed on last session. Mark asks if he’s concerned about the unfunded liability of the pension and healthcare funds for state employees and retirees. Rep. Dollar says these are currently two very healthy funds which they actively manage and watch carefully each year. Mark asks about transportation funding. Rep. Dollar explains they use the gas tax, federal highway dollars and proceeds from the sale of state vehicles. He adds the state now has $440 million in additional funds to put toward transportation needs so they no longer have to raid other funds to manage DOT projects.
Moore and Randolph County Senator Jerry Tillman and Time Warner Cable News Senior Political Reporter Loretta Boniti join us tomorrow.