NC Budget and Tax Center

When state policymakers convene next week for the 2014 legislative session the budget debate will likely be at center stage. The most recent consensus revenue forecast signal that boosting investment in critical public services will not be an option unless state policymakers take a new direction.

Today, the Budget & Tax Center released a report that highlights opportunities for legislators to begin bolstering investments in various areas of the state budget that help create pathways to the middle class, strengthen communities across the state, and alleviate the economic struggles of North Carolina families. These opportunities include boosting investments in education, workforce development initiatives, safe and healthy communities, and environmental protection.

The BTC report also highlights the significant challenge that legislators face if they choose to seize this opportunity to change the state’s direction and boost investments in North Carolina’s future. The tax plan enacted by policymakers last year reduces the amount of revenue for public investments in the years ahead. When policymakers return to Raleigh next week, they will have to address a budget gap of $335 million as a result of a forecasted revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year and a Medicaid shortfall.

The budget challenge continues beyond this fiscal year. Next year, state policymakers look to face a budget gap of at least $228 million according to the consensus revenue estimate. This budget gap, however, could reach as high as $637 million based on cost estimates that identify higher costs for the personal income tax changes in last year’s tax plan.

The reality is that policymakers must revisit the tax plan in order to bolster schools, health care, and other things that help strengthen North Carolina’s economy. Under the inadequate tax system created last year, every year going forward, policymakers are likely to struggle to fund these needed supports to a strong economy.

NC Budget and Tax Center

At a time when an increasing number of jobs in the state are expected to require some level of postsecondary training, North Carolina families and students have to shoulder more and more of the cost of a college education.

A report released today by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities highlights that state spending per student for higher education in North Carolina is 25 percent below pre-recession levels when adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, average tuition at North Carolina’s public, four-year colleges increased by more than 34 percent during this time period.

Some of the outcomes from these budget cuts have been well-documented on North Carolina’s campuses. For example, in the 2014 academic year, state funding cuts led NC State to eliminate 187 full-time equivalent positions and 27 positions from its library system, the report highlights. UNC-Chapel Hill has eliminated 493 positions, cut 16,000 course seats, increased class sizes, cut four of its seven centrally supported computer labs, and eliminated two distance education centers. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Nearly 300,000 students in high-poverty schools across North Carolina could potentially benefit from an initiative that ensures every child in these schools receives two nutritious meals each day so that they are ready to learn all day.

This nationwide initiative, known as the Community Eligibility Program (CEP), allows high-poverty schools to eliminate school meal applications and offer breakfast and lunch to all of their students at no charge. It aims to increase participation rates in breakfast and lunch programs by eliminating the stigma associated with the existing free and reduced meal programs offered only to students from low- and moderate-income families. These students may be reluctant to participate in the free- and reduced lunch program and go hungry, which can adversely impact their ability to succeed academically.

Schools in other states that have already implemented free breakfast and lunch programs for all students in high-poverty schools have experienced positive outcomes. In schools in Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan that adopted CEP for two years, daily lunch participation rose 13 percent. Daily breakfast participation in these schools rose 25 percent.

For the 2014-15 school year, eligible schools across the U.S. will be able to implement CEPs. In North Carolina, nearly 300,000 students in around 1,600 schools could potentially be served by the program.

This initiative can serve as a powerful option to help alleviate childhood hunger. Ensuring that students receive nutritious meals, in turns, helps enhance the overall quality of students’ classroom experiences. Students are inclined to be more focused and attentive, less distracted, and more engaged when they have enough to eat.

The CEP presents a mutually beneficial investment that can provide immediate and long-term benefits – for students, schools, families, and the larger Tar Heel state. Building a workforce that can compete for good-paying jobs and meet the demands of a 21st century economy requires that students show up to the classroom ready to learn.

Ensuring that more students participate in breakfast and lunch programs is one way to help promote a quality education for all North Carolina students. North Carolina can invest in its future today by encouraging eligible schools to adopt CEP beginning with the upcoming school year.

NC Budget and Tax Center

This tax season marks the final year North Carolina taxpayers will file their income taxes under the state’s old tax code. By next year the increased tax load for many North Carolina taxpayers will be apparent as a result of the tax plan passed by state leaders last year.

Today, the Budget & Tax Center released a report that highlights how the tax plan passed last year shifts the responsibility of paying for public investments to middle- and low- income taxpayers while providing generous tax cuts to the wealthy and profitable corporations. The report highlights various elements of the tax plan that fundamentally changes the state’s tax system and, subsequently, who pays taxes in North Carolina.

The tax plan passed last year replaces the existing graduated personal income tax rate structure with a flat tax rate that will largely benefit wealthy taxpayers who will now pay a much lower income tax rate. A number of tax provisions that benefit middle- and low-income families – such as the personal exemption and child and dependent care credit – are eliminated under the tax plan. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

What’s the deal in Kansas these days? That’s a question Governor McCrory and North Carolina’s state leaders should be asking themselves.

After passing huge tax cuts in recent years, the subsequent unimpressive economic performance and continued disinvestment in core public investments in Kansas serve as a cautionary tale for North Carolina.

A recently released report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) highlights how Kansas’ economic performance has failed to live up to the promises made by Governor Brownback and his legislative allies. Kansas passed huge income tax cuts in 2012 that reduced annual revenue for public investments by more than $800 million for FY 2014. Proponents claimed the tax cuts would boost the state’s economy.

Last year North Carolina followed Kansas’ lead when state leaders passed and Governor McCrory signed into law a tax plan that includes huge income tax rate cuts and reduces annual revenue by more than $650 million once all tax changes take effect. Here too, the governor and proponents claimed that cutting taxes will boost North Carolina’s economy.

So how is Kansas faring these days?

Kansas hasn’t experienced anything close to an economic surge in the wake of the huge tax cuts. Massive revenue loss has meant continued state funding cuts to core public investments – public schools, colleges and universities, and healthcare services, for example. Read More