Commentary, News

The week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. The Senate budget: unwise tax breaks, petty partisan attacks, and inadequate investments

Senate leaders are trying hard to convince people that their anemic budget proposal moves the state forward by making big new investments in education and providing a middle class tax cut for most North Carolinians.

The numbers tell a much different story. The N.C. Budget & Tax Center reports that the Senate spends well below the 45-year average as a share of the state economy and makes unwise cuts throughout their proposal.

As for the tax plan, if the Senate reductions for the wealthy become law, millionaires in North Carolina will have received a total annual break of $20,000 thanks to the tax changes since 2013.  Those changes are costing the state $3 billion a year in revenue—and digging a hole. [Read more…]

Bonus read:

2. Next “Raise the Age” battle will be making sure some felonies remain in law

As legislation to raise the juvenile age of prosecution gains steam, advocates are preparing for their next big hurdle in getting a law on the books.

North Carolina is currently the only state in the nation that prosecutes 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. House Bill 280 would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction for those teens charged with misdemeanors and low-level, nonviolent felonies.

The bill is rooted in recommendations that were made by a 65-member independent, multidisciplinary commission that was empaneled by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin over a year ago.

It contains proposals that are evidence-based to reduce recidivism and increase public safety and includes compromises to help satisfy stakeholders’ wants and needs. [Read more…]

Bonus reads:

3. Despite GOP claims, education advocates say Senate budget fails to repair damage to public schools

The N.C. Senate’s $22.9 billion budget plan may be rolling swiftly through the chamber this week. But public education advocates—given just hours to review the massive budget document after it was posted online early Wednesday—say the Senate’s GOP leadership is shortchanging teachers and students with their latest spending package.

“We continue to lose ground compared to the rest of the country on making critical investment in our students,” said Mark Jewell, president of the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE), in a press conference Wednesday morning. “This is unacceptable and, quite frankly, it’s embarrassing.”

The criticism for state lawmakers mounted Wednesday as K-12 leaders processed the massive bill, just hours after Senate Republican leaders touted a $600 million increase in public school funding that includes pay raises for teachers and school administrators. [Read more…]

Bonus read:

4. Analysis: In Senate budget large farms win, small farms and the environment lose

The Senate could not be clearer about its policy priorities for the state’s agriculture barons. While lawmakers continue to prop up industrialized farm operations through, for example, the passage of the hog nuisance lawsuit measure, HB 467, the Senate budget eliminates all $237,000 in state funds for the small farm program. This service provides outreach and education to  limited-resource and minority farmers.

With the Senate pulling the financial rug from under this program, that leaves just $46,000 in revenue, all generated by fees and receipts. Three people will lose their full-time jobs.

In another win for big ag and a loss for the environment, the Senate robs Peter (NC Department of Environmental Quality) to pay Paul (the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services). [Read more…]

Bonus reads:

5. The last line of defense against Trumpism is under fire
The Right lays siege to the federal and state courts

“What can we do?” For six months now, caring and thinking Americans have been asking that question a lot as they have anticipated and then stared into the dark abyss that is the presidency of Donald Trump.

It’s an understandable plea. The 2018 elections are a long way off and between the prevaricator-in-chief, his junta of a cabinet and the overwhelming conservative majorities that dominate both houses of Congress, there are precious few venues to which caring and thinking people can turn these days to request sane public policies – much less demand them. And, of course, it’s worse here in North Carolina. In some states, elected officials are putting up a spirited resistance to Trumpism. In North Carolina, however, about all that stands between a federal-state tag team assault and battery are a besieged and politically-shackled governor and a relative handful of mostly anonymous judges. [Read more…]

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