2017 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina deserves better

Just two weeks into the legislative session, North Carolinians already are seeing how limited policymakers’ aspirations are for the future of communities and families.

First, the Governor proposed a state budget that fell far short of what North Carolina needs to have thriving communities and broad prosperity.

Then, yesterday, leaders of the House and Senate agreed on setting their sights even lower.

As if the limitations forced by tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy weren’t enough, legislative leaders went a step farther in the wrong direction by tying their spending targets to a flawed formula that replaces judgment with rigid numbers.

In deciding that what the state spends in a year can’t increase by more than the percentage growth in population and inflation, legislative leaders set a target at a little over $22 billion – less than the governor’s.

Such a formula is similar to one that has been severely reducing the quality of life in Colorado. A report from Colorado just this weekend found this inflexible policy is seriously diminishing educational opportunity. Students are trying to learn with outdated technology, and schools are having a hard time attracting or keeping the best teachers. The state’s ability to compete in the global economy can only suffer as a result. Read more

2017 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

The Governor’s priorities

“Don’t tell me what you value, show me your budget and I will tell you what you value.” –Vice President Joe Biden

Governor McCrory made his vision for our state clear when he announced a summary of his budget two weeks ago, saying that his proposal followed the highest priorities he has for the state’s economic success and delivery of a high quality of life to all.  Unfortunately, however, the priorities in the Governor’s proposal are wholly out of sync with North Carolinians’ priorities for a stronger more inclusive economy, as well as unlikely to deliver the outcomes he desires.

The Governor’s clearest priority places deep tax cuts for wealthy and profitable corporations above important investments that could help build an economy that works for all. His decision to allow corporate income tax rate cuts to phase in over the next two years and personal income tax rates to drop to 5.499 percent  means the loss of at least $786 million in 2017 for the state. Since 2013, the tax changes add up to nearly $2 billion, despite the evidence that such tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable corporations do little to grow the economy and do exact a huge cost in our effort to build thriving communities.

The Governor’s budget proposal has several other examples of how his priorities do not match the priorities of a strong, thriving North Carolina: Read more

2017 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

Delivering efficient, effective, equitable public services

The operations of government and the targeted deployment of public services for public goals is the purpose of the General Government budget area.

In year’s past, the General Government area of the budget has supported important investments in affordable housing development and the supports to managing efficient and effective core functions of government.

Here are a few of the key items to highlight in the General Government budget:

• Creates a statewide network that develops and leverages existing NC entrepreneurial management talent and recruits investors, entrepreneurs and managers to NC ($2.5 million).

• Translates University research and development for commercialization through non-profits or housing entities ($2.5 million).
• Provides funding to conduct a School Facility Needs Assessment for low-wealth counties (despite an existing assessment indicating that $8 billion is needed for school construction). In 2013, lawmakers eliminated a dedicated school construction fund via the corporate income tax revenue in order to pay down the cost of the income tax rate cuts ($1 million).

• Funds to support access to permanent, community-based integrated housing for individuals with disabilities, directly supporting Olmstead Settlement ($5.5 million). Provides no additional funding for the Housing Trust Fund or the Workforce Housing Fund, despite pressing needs.

• Provides additional funding for the Human Relations Commission, which lawmakers placed on a continuation review last year ($788,076).

• Expands elections outreach to help ensure fair elections (but leaves in place recent election law changes such as Voter ID) and implements a new campaign e-filing process (more than $900,000).

2017 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

Preliminary review of Governor’s Health and Human Services Budget: Supporting the health, safety and well-being of North Carolina Families

Public investments in health and human services of the state budget provide protections for the health and well-being of North Carolina families, children and seniors.  By strengthening healthy outcomes and ensuring access to high quality health services, North Carolina policymakers can improve the quality of life of all North Carolinians and build healthy communities that support thriving economies.

The Governor’s budget is able to make investments in targeted programs and services within health and human services and other areas of the budget because of the reductions in Medicaid costs resulting from lower enrollment and utilization.  This $318 million reduction in Medicaid is being driven primarily by an improving national economy that means less folks are qualifying for Medicaid and by lower utilization that could be resulting from better preventive health care.  Recent policy decisions like cutting reimbursements, raising copays and eliminating optional services over the years have likely also contributed to this lower utilization.

Here are key highlights (and missing items) in the HHS budget:

  • Expand Support for Alzheimer’s Patients and their Families through Project CARE ($1 million)
  • Expand support for Alzheimer’s Patients and their Families through Community Alternatives ($3 million)
  • Serve more four year olds through NC Pre-K through lottery receipts although there still would remain a waiting list of at least 5,000 at-risk children ($4 million)
  • Improve quality of child care in NC by pushing adding 7 FTEs to conduct criminal records verification, fraud prevention and detection and 3 FTEs to invest in training of child care staff ($663,435)
  • No funding to expand access to child care subsidies to ensure quality early childhood experiences for children and support low-income working parents
  • Support Children’s Developmental Services Agencies that serve young children with developmental disabilities ($2.5 million)
  • Ease transition to new state funding model for local public health departments ($17 million)
  • Fund two new positions to support the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant work to reduce infant mortality ($97,597)
  • Enhance child safety through Federal Improvement Plan implementation which will address deficiencies identified in the Child and Family Review ($8.6 million)
  • Provide rental assistance benefit for vulnerable citizens including low-income, elderly and disabled individuals ($459,000)
  • Invest in Medicaid reform to support administrative efforts to transform the Medicaid and Health Choice programs to reach $6 million ($1 million)
  • Address backlog and expand services for individuals with developmental disabilities ($2.5 million)
  • No Medicaid expansion to serve nearly 500,000 North Carolinians without health insurance
  • Implement Governor’s Task Force for Mental Health and Substance Use Recommendations ($30 million)
  • Mental health investments to enhance the community health system ($20.2 million)
NC Budget and Tax Center

Statement on Governor’s released budget proposal from Alexandra Sirota, Director of the Budget and Tax Center

Now with the Governor’s budget proposal released, it is clear that unanticipated revenues available due to a recovering national economy and the lower than anticipated costs in Medicaid are allowing the  Governor to pursue small, targeted investments to promote child well-being and support improved educational outcomes.

These additional investments represent a small fraction of what is needed to realize Governor McCrory’s principles of preparing for future growth and helping those who are struggling in today’s economy.

It is certainly unclear how the Governor will sustain any new public investments with the already scheduled phase-in of additional cuts to the personal and corporate income tax and the heavy reliance on Medicaid “savings” as a primary source of dollars.

The Governor is limited by the costly income tax cuts implemented since 2013 that primarily benefit wealthy and profitable corporations, which result in at least $1 billion less in revenue each year than what would otherwise have been available to build the solid foundation that North Carolina needs to ensure the economy works for everyone.

This makes it impossible to build into the budget much-needed pay increases for all teachers and state employees and make the smart investments that will support a high quality of life and allow North Carolina to compete. Specifically, the tax cuts force bad choices like providing bonuses versus salary raises, selecting only certain public employees and not everyone to receive a pay raise that will also boost local economies, leaving certain waiting lists unaddressed and keeping in place many of the tuition increases and fee increases that have been implemented over the years.

It is, however, very important that the Governor has chosen to seek even this modest reinvestment over more tax cuts that would primarily benefit profitable corporations and the wealthy, shift the tax load  onto middle- and low-income taxpayers and only further distance North Carolina from achieving our potential.

The General Assembly should choose reinvestment over tax cuts for the wealthy or arbitrary spending targets as well and commit to building an economy that works for everyone.