NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina is known for having an appealing quality of life, with communities across the state offering a great place to raise a family and operate a business. Safe and healthy communities play an important role in contributing to this quality of life in what we North Carolinians call home.

Decisions made by state leaders highlight a lagging commitment to enhancing the quality of life within communities across the Tar Heel state. In the current budget, state leaders disregarded Gov. McCrory’s recommendation to provide funding for drug treatment courts, which is a cost-efficient way to provide drug treatment and support to individuals with substance abuse dependencies. State lawmakers did however create “cost savings” by reclassifying certain low-level offenses and allowing them to be punishable by fines instead of jail time – one particular tradeoff is that such defendants will now have convictions on their records despite not having a right to counsel. This could affect their employment prospects and access to other opportunities. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Shifting more of the responsibility for funding schools to localities, as some North Carolina lawmakers are advocating, would trap many children in underfunded schools and force up property taxes.
 
Our K-12 public schools are already suffering from significant cuts in state funding made by the legislature in recent years. For the current school year, state funding per student is 11 percent lower ($653 less) compared to six years ago, taking account of inflation. This has meant fewer teachers and teaching assistants in classrooms, larger class sizes, less money for textbooks and other instructional material, and an average salary for North Carolina teachers that ranks 46th among states.
 
Further reducing the state’s commitment to our school children would make these troubling trends even worse, particularly in poorer school districts, and turn our education system into one of haves and have-nots. That’s because state money helps schools in areas with few local resources fill in the gaps, allowing children who live in those communities to have some of the same opportunities as children who live in wealthier communities. Read More

Falling Behind in NC, NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters, The State of Working North Carolina

Today is EITC Awareness Day – also referred to as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a federal tax credit that encourages work by boosting the income of low- and moderate- income working people and offsets federal payroll and income taxes. The EITC has proven to be a powerful tool in helping lift families out of poverty and improving the well-being of young children.

In 2007, a state EITC was established to help further boost the wages of low- and moderate-income workers in North Carolina and offset the higher share of state and local taxes they pay as a percent of their income compared to high-income workers. More than 900,000 North Carolinians claimed this tax credit in 2011, according to the most current tax information provided by the NC Department of Revenue. The impact of the EITC spans across the state, with taxpayers in each of the state’s 100 counties claiming the tax credit (see this interactive map).

Unfortunately, this tax filing season will mark the last year that low- and moderate-income North Carolina workers will benefit from the state EITC. State leaders allowed the state EITC to expire at the end of last year and chose not to extend the tax credit as part of the tax plan passed last year. As a result, the expiration of the state EITC represents a tax increase for more than 900,000 hardworking low- and moderate-income North Carolina taxpayers, for which every dollar counts in their efforts to make ends meet.

NC Budget and Tax Center

At a time when we should be boosting investments to ensure that the Tar Heel state can compete for good-paying jobs in an increasingly knowledge-based economy, our legislative leaders have taken a different path. Our prized public 4-year university system serves as an example.

Since 2008, state funding on a per student basis within the UNC System has been cut by nearly 16 percent when adjusted for inflation. Managing these funding cuts have meant reducing course offerings, which can prolong the time it takes students to graduate; reducing academic- and student-support services; and steady tuition hikes. For the 2014 academic year, the average tuition and fees cost with the university system is around $6,100, up from around $4,400 in 2008 – an increase of nearly 40 percent.

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NC Budget and Tax Center

In case this news hasn’t reached readers, North Carolina residents should expect to begin paying sales taxes on their online purchases through Amazon.com (Amazon), the online retailer, beginning next month. Come February 1st North Carolina will become the 20th state in which Amazon collects a sales tax on online purchases.                

Since Amazon does not have physical, brick-and-mortar stores or operations here in North Carolina, the company is not required by law to collect a sales tax on online sales made to North Carolina residents. North Carolina taxpayers are supposed to voluntarily report their online purchases on their state income taxes and pay a “use tax”, but it appears that few taxpayers do so considering the significant loss of revenue for the state, as well as for cities and counties.

The NC Department of Revenue estimates that the state loses as much as $214 million in online sales taxes each year, according to a news report. Read More