NC Budget and Tax Center

New research confirms: Tough immigration enforcement policies do not lower crime rates

New research released by professors at the University of California at Davis finds once again that there is no relationship between deportation and the level of crime in communities. It also debunks the myth that programs of cooperation between local law enforcement and immigration authorities like Secure Communities and 287(g) agreements make communities safer, confirming the stance of sheriffs across North Carolina who have renounced such programs.

The research, looking at thousands of local communities across the country and using unique data on deportation and crime rates, finds that:

  • Places that deported the most appeared no safer than those that deported the fewest.
  • Aggressive enforcement and deportation does not lead to faster resolution of criminal cases.
  • Deportation is not an effective way to address crime.

For years, researchers have documented the lack of evidence supporting claims that more aggressive enforcement of federal immigration law contributes to public safety goals. As the New York Times reporters write:

“Research demonstrates that immigrants overall and undocumented immigrants in particular are less likely to be arrested than the native-born population; that both are less likely to be incarcerated; and that immigration does not raise an area’s local crime rates (neither does undocumented immigration).”

Our own research in North Carolina on the costs of aggressive enforcement by local governments of federal immigration law shows a high cost to all taxpayers. The cumulative cost to North Carolina taxpayers over the past decade of cooperation with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement was at least $81.7 million. These are dollars that could have been redirected to other public safety strategies and the promotion of opportunities for communities to thrive such as investments in youth development programs, and public education.

Alexandra Forter Sirota is the Director of the Budget and Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

NC Budget and Tax Center

N.C. lawmakers resort to trickery for budget that’s bad for our state

It appears that House leaders couldn’t get their way through debate and compromise, so rather than coming to the table with everyone, they used trickery to override the Governor’s veto of a budget that fails our state and every North Carolinian. Only 64 out of 120 House Representatives were present this morning when the vote was called after Democrats were told there would be no vote and some were at commemoration of the historic 9/11 attacks.

A final budget should lay out a vision for where our state is headed and how it plans to get there. It is the single most important policy decision that legislators make each year. It is a statement of their priorities and a marker of their stewardship of our tax dollars.

Legislators in our democracy are tasked with the tough work of negotiating those priorities and finalizing the budget. After failing at that work, legislators took the extreme step once again of changing the rules of the game.

The benefits of those changes will help very few in the near term and no one in the long-term.

This budget, which was vetoed by the governor and overridden by only about half our Representatives — which will go into effect should the Senate also override — fails to recognize the reality of a state that is growing apart economically and civically.

Where one lives in North Carolina determines whether there are jobs available for all those looking for work, whether there is quality child-care available for working parents, or even how long one will live. Public investments, particularly at the state level, can go a long way to making sure every community can thrive and every person can live a good life and reach their full potential. Despite the national economic expansion, North Carolina has continued to reduce spending as a share of the economy. Lawmakers have effectively dug a hole deeper than any modern-day recession has created in our state’s budget because of the priority that they have given to tax cuts for the wealthy and big companies.

When the Governor presented a counteroffer to legislative leaders after his veto of their inadequate budget, he asked them to prioritize the health of North Carolinians and stop tax cuts for high net worth companies so that greater progress could be made in investing in families and communities. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

This Labor Day, policies needed to knock down barriers to employment for all

The North Carolina Justice Center released its annual State of Working North Carolina report today. As workers, their families, employers and communities reflect on the critical role that work plays in well-being, the report lifts up the barriers that persist block Black and brown workers from good, quality jobs and the necessary role of public policies in connecting every North Carolinian–white, Black and brown– to good, quality jobs.

The report provides data on:

  • The current employment, unemployment, and wage data for North Carolina including breakdowns by race and ethnicity. Less than 60 percent of North Carolinians have reported being employed during most of 2019, which is both lower than the national average and well shy of the levels that North Carolina reached in the past 30 years. North Carolina regularly achieved levels of employment throughout the 1990s that were substantially above the national rate, but the state has seen that record erode during the last few economic cycles. Policies that drive job creation in places that aren’t seeing job growth in the economic recovery such as through investment in public institutions or policies like Medicaid expansion that support hospitals as anchor institutions and employers in rural areas are critical to this goal.
  • The wage differential for workers of color and white workers by educational attainment and union membership. Closing the difference in wages earned by Black and brown workers and white workers is critical to advancing the well-being of the state. It can both improve the financial security of individual families but has an impact across generations by providing for greater income to build assets and wealth and by supporting a whole host of outcomes that indicate improved well-being for communities including greater resiliency. If the difference in union median wages for Black workers and white workers were eliminated, Black workers would earn $11,780 more each year. Policies that drive more equitable wage outcomes would increase the minimum wage standard while also providing for the ability of public sector workers to collectively bargain.
  • Specific barriers that affect access to jobs, such as longer commute times, penalties upon exiting the criminal justice system, and challenges of post-secondary training and N.C.’s growing need for these skills. Identifying and removing the barriers that block Black and brown workers from equitable employment outcomes are critical to achieving the economic boost that many researchers have identified (and PolicyLink quantified for North Carolina here).  Policies that give all people access to affordable post-secondary education and licensure and public investments that keep post-secondary institutions affordable and create a public transportation infrastructure that connects people to jobs can smooth the way towards employment equity in North Carolina.

The economic recovery continues to elude too many North Carolinians.

To truly drive the benefits of this expansion to each and every person regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or where someone lives, this Labor Day our policymakers should commit to connecting more people and places to the good, quality jobs that boost the economy for all.

NC Budget and Tax Center

New analysis: A third of NC taxpayers won’t benefit from proposed tax refund plan

Proposal would also undermine preparations for next recession

North Carolina Senate and House leaders are moving forward with a flawed proposal to spend the majority of the state’s revenue over collections, more than $600 million, to issue tax refund checks of $125 per taxpayer ($250 for married couples).

Such a proposal undercuts the potential to address pressing needs in communities like school construction, hurricane rebuilding, shoring up the state’s Rainy Day Fund, and one-time investments that can improve the quality of life for children and families through quality education and health care.

It also flies in the face of prudent budgeting in the face of increasing concerns that the country and North Carolina could experience a recession in the near-term. Setting aside one-time money to minimize the potential hit to state revenues from a downturn is fiscally responsible.

Sending tax refunds to individuals won’t deliver the same economic boost as building schools or fixing our water infrastructure primarily because it won’t benefit those who need it most and are most likely to spend it. By design, the proposal is limited to tax returns that had positive income tax liability in 2018. That means that many taxpayers whose income is low or who receive various tax credits won’t receive a refund check.

New analysis from the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy finds that 32 percent of taxpayers will not receive a tax refund check despite the fact that all North Carolinians pay state and local taxes each year.

Here’s why:

Some North Carolina taxpayers earn too little to file income taxes. Yet all North Carolinians pay sales and excise taxes. Low and middle income taxpayers pay a greater share of their annual income in sales and excise tax to our collective effort to strengthen community well-being.  The current tax refund proposal doesn’t account for the total tax load carried by North Carolina taxpayers.

Many taxpayers don’t have income tax liability due to the state’s high standard deduction. Overtime, the standard deduction—the amount of income you can earn before you have to start paying taxes—has been increased by policymakers. Increases in the standard deduction means that fewer people have income tax liability thus making fewer NC taxpayers eligible for the tax refund.

New analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that North Carolina taxpayers most in need of an income boost and those most likely to spend their refund are less likely to receive one. A full 70 percent of taxpayers in the bottom 40 percent of the distribution, those whose average income is below $36,000, will not receive a tax refund. At the same time, the top 20 percent of taxpayers receive 34 percent of the tax refunds.

It is time for a more serious conversation about our fiscal decisions and a return to the process of finalizing a budget that considers the full range of needs now and in the future.

Martine Aureline contributed to this post.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Legislative leaders need to invest in longterm needs of NC, not one-time redistribution

Redistributing the tax dollars of the state’s wealthiest taxpayers (66 percent of all capital gains income in the state are held by taxpayers in the top 1 percent) to all taxpayers may sound appealing to Senator Berger, but our families, communities, and economy would be a lot better off if they invest those dollars in schools that remain underfunded, people who can’t get the health care they need, and our water that is literally poisonous.

Senator Berger’s redistribution proposal won’t permanently fix the state’s upside-down tax code, either, given the one-time nature of these dollars.

With the announcement that the state may have a larger than projected over-collection of revenue that can help to meet the backlog of unmet needs in classrooms and communities, it is time for legislative leaders to get to work on finalizing a budget that better reflects the priorities of leadership looking to move our state ahead and account for how they will spend those dollars in the next year.

Economists from both the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division and the Office of State Budget and Management found this spring that the $896 million more in revenue over projections was due primarily to larger than expected increases in capital gains income.  Wage and salary income performed at projected growth levels. States across the country have experienced similar unexpected increases in their revenue, largely from the same source, although also from corporate profits.  These increases are also happening in states that have not recently cut taxes and in states that recently have increased tax rates like Minnesota.

In the face of growing income inequality where the top 1 percent have incomes 20 times that of the bottom 99 percent, these additional dollars should be driven into breaking down barriers to more equitable outcomes in our state.

Instead of concocting ever more complicated schemes to constrain opportunity in our communities, Senator Berger and Speaker Moore should work with members on both sides of the aisle to put forward a budget that deploys these dollars for the public good. Read more