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Morning Roundup: Little known law benefits UNC Health Care

A little-known law, the Set Off Debt Collection Act, allows state and local agencies to collect debts by seizing state tax returns and lottery winnings. The law has been good to UNC Health Care. Last year, UNC Hospitals collected $5.7 million, while UNC Physicians and Associates collected $2 million. Read more here.

More political headlines:

--Departing from this uber-optimism from the campaign trail, Pat McCrory gave a sobering assessment of the economy and the challenges ahead.

Chamber concerned with extension of unemployment benefits in fiscal cliff deal

The fiscal cliff deal in Washington creates "more urgency" to revamp the state's unemployment benefit system, said Lew Ebert, the president of the N.C. Chamber of Commerce.

The legislation extended unemployment benefits through 2013 at the same time Republican lawmakers in North Carolina are trying to curtail the checks to jobless workers. Ebert said businesses that pay unemployment taxes can't afford another extenstion.

"It's the most immediate challenge to job creation," Ebert said at the chamber's economic forecast forum Wednesday. He stopped short of calling on Gov.-elect Pat McCrory to reject possible additional federal loans for benefits, as other governors have done in the past.

Morning Roundup: N.C. congressional delegation splits on fiscal cliff vote

North Carolina's congressional delegation split along unusual lines when it came to the fiscal cliff legislation. U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan voted to approve. In the House, five Democrats and one Republican voted in favor and two Democrats and five Republicans voted against. See the breakdown here and more on the vote here.

More political headlines below.

Ahead of cliff, U.S. Sen. Burr begins pointing the finger of blame

As the negotiations on the so-called fiscal cliff enter the final hours, the political positioning among Republicans and Democrats will become increasingly interesting -- especially if there is no deal and the blame game begins.

Here's a look at what U.S. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina is saying -- and how he's predictably casting all the fault on President Barack Obama as Senate leaders look to negotiate a deal.

From a Burr statement issued Sunday evening: "Negotiations on how to reach a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff have been ongoing since the President was reelected in November.

Morning Roundup: The N.C. political year in review

While North Carolina experienced a predicted blockbuster political year in 2012, the details weren't as anticipated by some.

Charlotte hosted North Carolina's first-ever major party national convention. A proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in North Carolina passed by a whopping 22 percentage points. And although it wasn't shocking that former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory was elected governor, the ease of his victory was surprising, as was his Democratic rival - Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, not Gov. Beverly Perdue. Read AP's political year in review here.

More political headlines below:

--North Carolina’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which has spent nearly $1 billion to clean up polluted waters and protect untainted ones, will face a dicey future as legislators convene in January.

--The N.C. House’s new Republican majority whip believes he has the votes to stop North Carolina’s green-energy mandate – the first in the Southeast when it was enacted in 2007 – in its tracks. Rep. Mike Hager of Rutherford County views the mandate as the government unfairly “picking winners and losers” in the marketplace. As chairman of the Public Utilities committee, Hager would like to freeze it at the current 3 percent level.

Perdue chimes in on fiscal cliff "squabbles"

Gov. Bev Perdue has written to each member of the state’s congressional delegation calling on them to find a way to put the brakes on the fiscal cliff plunge.

The letter was released Friday by the North Carolina chapter of the organization formed to pressure Washington to solve the problem, Fix the Debt. It promotes finding some solution based on the Simpson-Bowles commission recommendations calling for tax increases and spending cuts.

Perdue’s letter, dated Thursday, says the tax increases that would go into effect if no agreement is reached by the end of the year would harm Americans at all income levels. North Carolina receives 6.3 percent of its revenue from federal grants, the letter says, and if that money were to suddenly stop, consequences would be serious for the programs it funds and for state-funded programs, too.

Suffering would be seen in education, public housing, nutrition programs for low-income women and children, she says. Sequestration would also hit North Carolina especially hard due to its $18 billion military economy.

“Members of both parties must stop squabbles and build a plan for American that avoids the fiscal cliff and gets our country back on a track of fiscal sustainability,” she writes.

Fa,la,la,la,la, end tax cuts for the top 2 percent?

This doesn't strike us as exactly as in keeping with the Christmas spirit. But a liberal group plans to deliver a Christmas Card and sing Christmas carols with a a message at the office of Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers's office in Dunn at noon today.

The group, including Progress N.C. is lobbying Ellmers to support a deal to end the Bush tax cuts for the top 2 percent to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Morning Roundup: Impending GOP control neuters state school board move

A sign Republicans are assuming complete power in Raleigh soon: The North Carolina school board on Wednesday delayed action on rules that would make it much more difficult to open a taxpayer-funded charter school offering online-only classes, AP reports.

Gov.-elect Pat McCrory and GOP lawmakers support such schools, despite investigations plaguing the company behind the effort in North Carolina. Bill Harrison, state school board chairman acknowledged that the Republican-run General Assembly returning to work next month might have undone any action taken this week. Read full story here.

More political headlines:

--State legislators are considering an overhaul of the state unemployment system that includes a major reduction in benefits for laid-off workers.

Hagan says parties need to get to work in Washington

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said Wednesday negotiators from both parties need to get to work in Washington to reach a budget settlement that includes revenue increases and spending cuts.

The alternative -- the automatic spending cuts and tax increases known as sequestration -- would be "extremely damaging to North Carolina," Hagan said on a conference call with reporters.

From right to far-right: Cross-section of conservatives makes fiscal cliff demands

Veteran North Carolina Republican political strategist Marc Rotterman, a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation, is one of 38 prominent conservatives who have signed a petition making demands about the fiscal cliff negotiations.

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