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Archive for March, 2009

Alcohol and cigarettes could cost more statewide; universities to cut 500 jobs if state budget passes

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

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Part of Governor Perdue’s budget plan includes upping taxes on cigarettes and alcohol.

The proposed “sin tax” would generate more than 400 million dollars for the weak state budget.

Booze and cigarettes, both things people continue to buy despite the recession, could cost more come September 1st, if Governor Bev Perdue gets her way.

“I think we have pretty good alcohol prices, but if they go up, it’s definitely not going to be great, because people aren’t going to drink as much,” said Jeremiah Williams, a bartender at Fat Tony’s.

With the economy already forcing people to pinch pennies, Williams said this is not the right time to raise a tax like this. “I’ve seen a decrease in people going out and spending what they usually would, cause their disposable income is so small.”

Perdue is proposing a five percent tax surcharge on all alcohol, which includes drinks bought at a bar or restaurant and bottles and cans purchased at a liquor store.

Perdue also wants to raise the tobacco tax from 35 cents per pack to $1.35. For smoker Ben Adams, this may mean changing his habit. “I gotta cut down even more.”

Distilled Spirits Council of the United States is concerned these higher taxes will hurt cities that rely on tourism, like Wilmington.

Visitors Bureau Director Kim Hufham isn’t worried, noting the Cape Fear region has much more to offer. “People don’t come here just to drink. People might get in a restaurant and buy one less drink, who knows? But it really won’t affect people coming to area, because it’s going to be statewide.”

The proposed sin taxes would produce nearly $400 million in revenue for the 2009-2010 state budget. The proposed budget plan still needs to go before the state legislature.

The head of the University of North Carolina system says it will have to cut as many as 500 jobs if governor Perdue’s budget becomes law.

Erskine Bowles told the senate budget-writing committee Tuesday that the proposed $192 million in system cuts would harm the quality of education on the 16 campuses. Instead, he urged lawmakers to consider giving campuses the ability to furlough workers to save money.

The senate will propose and pass its own budget plan before sending it to the house, which will create its own version.

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videoPart of Governor Perdue’s budget plan includes upping taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. The proposed “sin tax” would generate more than 400 million dollars for the weak state budget.

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Associated poll

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Smithville Senior Center in Southport set to open in July — four months behind schedule

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

The $2.5 million Smithville Senior Center in Southport won’t open until July, roughly four months behind schedule. But when it does, officials with Brunswick Senior Resources Inc. want it to generate its own source of revenue instead of exclusively relying on county funds.

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DOT using recovery funds in Brunswick County

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

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The State Department of Transportation will soon be putting recovery funds to work in Brunswick County.

A $6.3 million contract was awarded to ST Wooten Corporation of Wilson to extend Smith Avenue in Shallotte from west of Highway 17 Business.

The extension will cross Edgewater Drive and tie in with Highway 130 near Saint Mary’s Street.

Work is scheduled to begin as early as April 27th, with completion no later than December 31, 2010.

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The State Department of Transportation will soon be putting recovery funds to work in Brunswick County. A $6.3 million contract was awarded to ST Wooten Corporation of Wilson to extend Smith Avenue in Shallotte from west of Highway 17 Business.

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Associated poll

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Homeowners to get break on beach plan insurance

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

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North Carolina homeowners insured under the beach plan will get a break on rate increases.

Most homeowners along the coast get their windstorm and hail insurance through the North Carolina Beach Plan. On Monday a judge ruled that one planned rate increase will be frozen, but another increase could be just around the corner.

In January the North Carolina Insurance Commission rezoned it’s insurance territories.

Under the new zoning, beach town homeowners pay different insurance rates from those on the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Last year beach town homeowners paid nearly double the amount of costal homeowners for insurance coverage.

The North Carolina Insurance Commission scheduled a 10 percent increase to take effect February first. That would have meant $200-$300 on insurance premiums for every $400,000 of coverage.

But Monday a judge ruled former insurance commissioner Jim Long didn’t follow proper procedures before approving the increase.

Insurance agent Jim Moore said the commission needs to restructure the beach plan. “I think the people on the coast need to lobby to have their premium dollars put into an escrow account and returned down the road if the money is not needed for storms. Second, I think we have painted the insurance companies into a box, we need to relieve them of the potential assessments that could bankrupt them.”

But folks living along the coast aren’t out of the woods yet. Local homeowners could still be paying higher premiums beginning in May; 40% increase for costal homeowners and 20% percent increase for beach homeowners.

Insurance agencies said the increase is necessary to prevent them from going bankrupt in the event of a big hurricane.

A spokesperson for the North Carolina Insurance Commission said, “We don’t want to have increases if they’re not warranted, but the industry provided compelling data.”

Moore believes that data is just guesswork. “I just don’t think you can predict the cost of a category 4 or 5 storm in North Carolina, when we’ve never had one.”

If the NC Insurance Commission decides to go after the February increase, new commissioner Wayne Goodwin will have to repeat the process before it can take effect.

That planned May increase could also face a freeze if Senator Boseman has any say. The senator sponsored a bill that would delay all insurance increases until July 2010.

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videoMost homeowners along the coast get their windstorm and hail insurance through the North Carolina Beach Plan. On Monday a judge ruled that one planned rate increase will be frozen, but another increase could be just around the corner.

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tax150.jpg

Associated poll

More: continued here

Women stitching lives back together at Wilmington prison

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Prisoners at the Wilmington Residential Facility for Women are patching together pieces of their broken lives. One of the ways they’re doing it is through a quilt.

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