News

Betsy DeVos’ family boosts Tillis’ 2020 campaign

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Sen. Thom Tillis

WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ family members spent $22,400 so far this year to help fund North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis’ re-election prospects, according to federal campaign finance data released this week.

DeVos’ in-laws — Michigan conservative donors and heirs to the Amway fortune — have plowed cash into the coffers of Republican Senate candidates across the country who are up for re-election in 2020, the records show.

DeVos’ husband, Dick, has three siblings — Doug, Daniel and Suzanne — each of whom contributed $5,600 to Tillis’ campaign in March. Doug’s wife, Maria DeVos, also contributed $5,600 to the campaign. That’s the maximum contribution allowed per election cycle under federal election law.

As Trump’s education secretary, DeVos has been one of the administration’s most controversial cabinet officials.

She made waves during her January 2017 confirmation hearing when she cited grizzly bears as a reason that educators might need guns in schools. Since then, her policies on issues like school choice, campus sexual assault, civil rights and student debt have drawn ire from her critics.

Earlier this year, DeVos faced a firestorm on Capitol Hill as lawmakers grilled her for the administration’s proposal to cut federal funding for the Special Olympics. President Trump later reversed course on the issue, saying that he supports federal funding for the program.

Tillis voted in 2017 to confirm DeVos, despite a campaign from liberal groups to convince him to oppose her nomination.

“I’m for her,” Tillis said in 2017, according to the News & Observer. The North Carolina senator pointed to DeVos’ stances on increasing opportunities for charter schools and school choice.

“She’s talking about giving states the ability to turn a trend around – which is (the trend of) failing public schools. Not all of them. There’s a lot of good ones,” Tillis said. “We owe to these kids to come up with solutions to fix it for this generation, not the next generation.”

Tillis’ office did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Overall, Tillis raised about $1.2 million in the first quarter of this year for his 2020 campaign, and has about $2.9 million cash on hand, according to the reports.

The North Carolina Republican wasn’t the only incumbent GOP senator to receive donations from the wealthy DeVos family so far this year.

The education secretary’s in-laws also donated to Republican Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Martha McSally of Arizona. Gardner and McConnell both voted to confirm DeVos; McSally wasn’t yet serving in the Senate.

Those same DeVos family members did not contribute to Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican facing re-election in 2020 who was one of two Senate Republicans who voted against DeVos’ 2017 confirmation.

The Education Department did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Attempts to contact the members of the DeVos family who donated to McSally’s campaign were unsuccessful.

DeVos herself pledged that she and her husband would suspend their political contributions during her time as education secretary, although her husband later made contributions to two Michigan political action committees, the Detroit News reported.

Robin Bravender is the Washington Bureau Chief for the Newsroom network, of which Policy Watch is a member.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Proposed tax cut bill in Congress would help 3.7 million in N.C.

A majority of the families that benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are single head of household filers— a filing designation commonly used by single mothers. The same single mothers who are struggling to provide the basics of a healthy and happy life for their children in an economic climate defined by stagnating wages and higher costs for childcare, medicine, and housing. North Carolina’s low- and middle-income working families are struggling to stay afloat as costs rise faster than their pay.

In North Carolina, these same families are responsible for an ever increasing tax burden while our state’s wealthiest individuals and corporations are not being asked to pay their share.

In stark contrast to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 that was heavily tilted in favor of corporations and the wealthy, several Senate co-sponsors just introduced the Working Families Tax Relief Act.

If successful, the Working Families Tax Relief Act will strengthen the highly effective EITC and Child Tax Credit (CTC).    Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

Trump tax policy helped many of the biggest corporations completely avoid taxes in 2018

With last years’ tax returns now in, it is all the more evident how massive a gift the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress gave corporate America in their 2017 package of tax cuts. Many of America’s wealthiest corporations received a huge windfall in 2018, even as most Americans face the prospect of declining public services and deepening public debt.

A recent report shows that 60 of the largest corporations managed to pay no corporate income taxes in 2018, and many of these companies actually received substantial tax rebates. A few notable examples of corporations who made off particularly well under the Trump tax cuts include:

  • Amazon: Had $11 billion in revenues from business in the United States and received $129 million in tax rebates.
  • Netflix: Paid no corporate taxes on over $850 million in U.S. income.
  • Chevron: Revenues from U.S. operations of approximately $4.5 billion and received $181 million in federal tax rebates.
  • Halliburton: Took in over $1 billion in U.S. revenues, and received a $19 million tax rebate

These companies managed to avoid taxation by exploiting a range of loopholes in the federal tax code that were either left untouched or actually expanded by the 2017 tax bill.

Capital-intensive companies like Chevron and Delta Airlines were able to slash their taxes using Accelerated Depreciation, a provision well known in corporate accounting circles but not widely understood beyond those circles, that allows companies to claim larger tax write-offs for the decreasing value of expensive equipment.

Amazon and Netflix were leaders in using stock option payments to their corporate executives to avoid millions in corporate taxes. Even though granting stock options does not directly hit companies’ revenues like salaries would, corporations can still claim the value of the options as an expense and thereby reduce their tax bill. Moreover, these options also allow wealthy executives to avoid paying the personal income tax rate on that income, instead paying the lower rate applied to capital gains.

A range of other companies were able to zero out their taxes in 2018 using tax credits for energy production, research and development, and other special treatment still littered throughout the federal tax code.

Instead of draining the swamp, the 2017 tax cuts only gave smart corporate attorneys more bog to explore. The result was predictable: Most working families and small businesses got peanuts (or saw their taxes go up) while many of the biggest corporations in the country avoided paying taxes altogether. Sooner or later we have get serious about getting large and profitable companies to pay their share, or we will all end up paying the bill for tax breaks that mostly benefit the most fortunate.

Education

Poll shows most North Carolina voters support May 1 teacher march and rally

By Greg Childress

More than 19,000 teachers and supporters took over downtown Raleigh on May 16 to demand better pay for teachers and more funding for public schools.

North Carolina’s Republican leadership appears to be swimming upstream, and largely alone, in opposition to the May 1 teacher march and rally.

A new poll by Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling shows that more than 70 percent of the state’s voters – including more than half of Republicans — support teachers taking the day off to share concerns with lawmakers.

“When it comes to support for our legislative agenda, the public is with us,” said N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) President Mark Jewell. “Wide margins of Republicans and Democrats support our call for increased funding for public education, and we intend to deliver that message to our representatives on May 1.”

Click here to see the entire survey.

Republican leaders have been openly critical of the march.

Sen. Phil Berger, (R-Rockingham), the Senate president pro tempore, has called the May 1 march a partisan ploy by the NCAE to help elect Democrats.

“This strike is not about education,” Berger wrote on his Facebook page last week. “It is a strike organized by partisan activists with the express intent of eliminating Republicans from the North Carolina General Assembly, and it is at the expense of children who should be in the classroom learning.”

State Superintendent Mark Johnson has also been critical. He asked teachers to consider a day in June when school is not in session.

Forty-four percent of voters polled said they are Democrats while 35 percent said they are Republicans. Another 21 percent identified as other. The poll was conducted April 10-12.

Eighty-five percent of voters who identified themselves as Democrats strongly support or somewhat support the May 1 march in Raleigh. And 55 percent of those who said they are Republicans strongly support or somewhat support the march.

Meanwhile, 71 percent of voters who identified as other strongly support or somewhat support the teacher’s march.

 

When voters were asked if they approve or disapprove of the job the Republican-led General Assembly is doing when it comes to education, only 33 percent of voters approved. Forty-nine percent disapproved and 18 percent were not sure.

Gov. Roy Cooper fared better when asked about his job performance around education. Fifty-one percent of voters said they approve of the job Cooper is doing compared to 35 percent who did not. Fourteen percent were not sure.

The poll’s other findings include:

  • Sixty-nine percent (including 62 percent of Republicans) believe North Carolina teacher salaries are too low.
  • Seventy-seven percent (including 65 percent of Republicans) support providing enough school librarians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, nurses, and other health professionals to meet national standards.
  • Seventy-one percent (including 56 percent of Republicans) support raising the minimum wage for school support employees like bus drivers, cafeteria workers and teacher assistants.
  • Sixty-three percent (including 45 percent of Republicans) support raising state income taxes on the wealthiest 1 percent in order to increase public education funding.

Last year, more than 19,000 teachers and supporters turned out for a march and rally for better teacher pay an increased K-12 funding.

Jewell expects more teachers and supporters will show up next month to rally around these five items:

  • Additional funding to adequately staff schools with psychologists, social worker, nurses and librarians.
  • Restoration of extra pay for advanced degrees.
  • Increasing the minimum wage for all school personnel to $15 an hour and a 5 percent cost of living raise for school employees and retirees.
  • Expansion of Medicaid to improve the health of students and their families.
  • Restoration of retiree health benefits for teachers hired after 2021.
News

Breaking: Cooper vetoes abortion bill

Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Senate Bill 359 this morning — the proposal outlined in the post immediately below. Here is the statement issued by his office:

Today, Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the following bill: 

•    Senate Bill 359: “AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE BORN-ALIVE ABORTION SURVIVORS PROTECTION ACT.” 

Gov. Cooper shared the following statement on his veto of Senate Bill 359:

“Laws already protect newborn babies and this bill is an unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients. This needless legislation would criminalize doctors and other healthcare providers for a practice that simply does not exist.”