2017 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

Missed Opportunities: Investments that are MIA in Governor McCrory’s budget

Deep tax cuts are preventing Gov. McCrory from proposing a bold, visionary state budget for the upcoming 2017 fiscal year. The 2013 and 2015 tax cuts are draining more than $1 billion in revenues annually, squeezing out much-needed reinvestment in the programs and services that help children, families, and communities thrive. Under his budget, North Carolina will continue to be held back by substantial unmet needs.

There are few public dollars available for anything else after previous deep tax cuts and the governor’s prioritizing of an uneven compensation package for teachers and state employees. Without those tax cuts, what could have been possible for North Carolina?  There has been plenty of coverage of what is in his budget over the last week but there has been little coverage of what’s not in his budget. Below is a short list of investments that are missing in action but still greatly needed to build a stronger, more inclusive economy for us all.

 Economic Security

  • Fails to restore the state Earned Income Tax Credit, which allows low-income workers to keep more of what they earn. We are the only state to eliminate this anti-poverty tax credit in 30 years.
  • Fails to provide a raise for all teachers and state employees. Teachers and school personnel get a mix of raises and one-time bonuses. On average, teacher pay would increase by 5 percent (excluding the bonuses) but his plan would not provide every teacher a raise, including veteran teachers. State employees get a one-time 3 percent bonus. He also appropriates funds to implement a new market-aligned salary structure for state agencies, and to adjust salaries in state job classifications where employee pay is below market value, not competitive in the marketplace, and where the state is having difficulty recruiting and retaining employees.
  • Fails to provide a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for state retirees despite shrinking purchasing power due to changes in the economy.

Early Childhood Education, K-12 Schools, and Higher Education Read more

Uncategorized

HB2, the tourism industry, and the “more progressive state of South Carolina”

While Gov. Pat McCrory continues to attack opponents of HB2 and blame the media for how it is covering the damage caused by his anti-LGBT law, leaders in the tourism industry in North Carolina have a clear message for McCrory and the General Assembly—repeal the law that is hurting their businesses.

The Lumina News reports that Mary Baggett, owner of the Blockade Runner Beach Resort in Wrightsville Beach, didn’t mince any words at a recent meeting of the N.C. Tourism & Travel Coalition in Wilmington.

At an industry event Monday, Mary Baggett, owner of Wrightsville Beach’s Blockade Runner Beach Resort, said the state’s legislature needed to take immediate action to repeal the bill and that the NC State Tourism Coalition should be lobbying that message to state’s General Assembly that is currently in session.

“We fought hard to become a destination state. Now it’s all undone,” Baggett said. “I hope your organization comes forth to rally us.”

Baggett also shared a recent story about an interaction with a potential tourist that includes a line that many North Carolinians never thought they would hear.

Baggett described an email she received from a family from Massachusetts traveling through the region who had planned a stay at the Blockade Runner. The family will be staying in the “more progressive state of South Carolina”, said Baggett referencing the email cancelling the four-night booking, because they would “rather go to a state that’s not judgmental” of people’s lifestyles.

The more progressive state of South Carolina? It is hard to believe where McCrory and his pals in the General Assembly have taken us.

News

On National Teacher Appreciation Day, educators and lawmakers call for raises, big reforms in NC

EducationN.C. Sen. Dan Blue, the Democratic leader in the Senate, remembers Dorothy Washington, his high school English teacher and an educator in his former home in Robeson County for a half-century.

Rep. Graig Meyer, a Democrat from Orange County, still keeps an aging, brass school bell on his legislative desk to remind him of one of his most beloved teachers.

And Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, a Democrat who represents eight counties in the northeast corner of the state, doesn’t have to look far for her inspiration when it comes to education. Smith-Ingram is a former high school math and science teacher.

All shared their personal stories on Tuesday, National Teacher Appreciation Day, during a press conference geared to push the public school agenda with lawmakers in the N.C. General Assembly back in session and expected to consider some of Gov. Pat McCrory’s school budget proposals as early as this week.

Read more analysis of McCrory’s K-12 budget proposal from the N.C. Justice Center here. And, also, here.

Tuesday’s press conference, organized by the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE), the state’s largest teacher advocacy organization, included a laundry list of demands for legislators that largely echoed the sentiments of the group’s full legislative agenda.

Among its requests, the group notably called for lawmakers to increase teacher pay and per-pupil spending to the national average (N.C. ranked a dismal 42nd and 46th, respectively, at last count), restore master’s and longevity pay bonus checks and overhaul the state’s controversial, A-F school performance grading system to place a greater emphasis on student growth, rather than student performance.

“Let us stand for the schools that we deserve,” said Rodney Ellis, NCAE president.

Blue called teaching the “cornerstone of every profession” in the state. “We present them with unattainable goals and provide them with inadequate resources to achieve those goals,” Blue said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Ellis told reporters that he was skeptical about the “lofty ideals” presented in the governor’s proposed budget, which McCrory said would give teachers an average raise of about 5 percent, bringing the state’s average teacher pay up to about $50,000 a year. The national average exceeds $56,000.

“It’s an election year, so you can anticipate some numbers out there that may or may not come true,” said Ellis.

Legislators in the powerful House appropriations committee for K-12 education are expected to discuss the governor’s budget in detail later this week, although most political observers expect the state’s final budget to undergo major changes before its approval by both chambers.

Meanwhile, Rep. Larry Hall, the Democratic leader in the state House, on Tuesday called for more of a long-term plan for K-12 spending while taking pointed jabs at Gov. McCrory’s budget.

“Folks are going to have to do more than put out a proposed budget that’s dead on arrival and say, ‘I’ve done my part,'” said Hall.

Commentary

Advocates for Merrick Garland nomination holding “Do Your Job” tour to push Burr, Tillis

Merrick Garland

Judge Merrick Garland

In case you missed it, advocates at Progress NC will be helping to spearhead a series of events around the state this week to combat the ongoing blockade by Senators Burr and Tillis of the nomination of federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court. As is explored in some detail in this morning’s Weekly Briefing, the hypocrisy of the Garland blockade and the stated excuse (that the Senate shouldn’t act during an election year) continues to set hit new lows — especially given that Senator Burr, in particular, continues take all sorts of important lawmaking actions at the same time that he runs for election this November. Similarly, Gov. Pat McCrory has continued to make numerous appointment here in North Carolina — including many state judges — despite being up for election this fall.

This week, the good folks at Progress North Carolina will kick off a “mobile billboard tour” that will feature stops in multiple cities to demand that Burr and Tillis do their jobs, meet with Garland, and hold a hearing on the nomination. Events will be held at the following times and locations:

Wednesday, May 4th @ noon – Pearl Street Park
1200 Baxter St, Charlotte, North Carolina

Wednesday, May 4th @ 5:00 p.m. – Pack Square Park
Asheville, North Carolina

Thursday, May 5th @ noon – Guilford County Courthouse
201 S Eugene St, Greensboro, North Carolina

Friday, May 6th @ 3:00 p.m. – Governor’s Mansion
200 N Blount St, Raleigh, North Carolina

Saturday, May 7th @ 4:00 p.m. – Pitt County Courthouse

N 3rd St Between Washington and S Evan St, Greenville, North Carolina

To learn more, visit the group’s Facebook page by clicking here.

You can also learn much more about the Garland nomination at next Tuesday’s NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation luncheon:

A conversation with nationally acclaimed scholar, author and commentator Michael Gerhardt: The Merrick Garland nomination and its implications for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Click here for more information.

News

With local school districts battling for funding, one Iowa district promises to break the law

school-busespng-91b35e2c325e0b5bHere’s a fascinating report Monday from Education Weekwhich tells the story of one Iowa school district’s surprising response to apparently insufficient state funding.

According to the paper, the Davenport Community Schools district says that it may be forced to break state law in order to fill in budget gaps, gaps wrought, according to the district’s superintendent, by state funding holes.

This sort of story is, of course, playing out across North Carolina as well, with many districts complaining that they are forced to tap into their reserves to offset withering state allotments. 

From Education Week:

Fed up with years of political battling over the fairness of Iowa’s education funding formula, Arthur Tate, the superintendent of the Davenport public schools, says in order to balance his books next year, he will illegally pull $2.7 million out of the district’s reserves. It’s an amount he bases on the state’s 1971 funding formula, which leaves Davenport $175 less to spend per student compared to some other districts.

The state tightly controls how much districts can spend, and dipping into emergency savings accounts without state permission is strictly forbidden. Officials say Tate could lose his superintendent’s license given by the state if he goes ahead, and the district’s board members, who unanimously approved the plan this month, could be charged criminally.

“I’m tired of the inequality,” said Tate, the head of a district whose 15,500 students are mostly low-income, Hispanic, and black. “I think there’s a higher philosophy and principle at stake here. Every student should be worth the same, and the state is saying ours are worth much less.”

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