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Despite the growing revenue challenge North Carolina faces, a new round of tax cuts went into effect with the start of the new year. While the growing revenue shortfall warrants immediate attention during the upcoming General Assembly legislative session that begins next week, inaction up to this point has already  dug a deeper hole as of January 1, 2015.

New personal income and corporate income tax rates are now in effect for 2015. The now-flat personal income tax rate dropped to 5.75 from 5.8 percent (the top marginal rate was 7.75 percent in 2013) and the corporate income tax rate dropped to 5 percent from 6 percent (it was 6.9 percent in 2013). These tax cuts will further reduce revenue for public investments and will largely benefit the wealthy and profitable corporation at the expense of low- and middle-income taxpayers.

The cost of the tax plan continues to grow higher than what state officials originally estimated. As of the end of the November, revenue collections are coming in $190 million below expectations. This loss is built on top of the already revised and anticipated revenue loss of $704 million due to the tax plan. Combined, this result in a nearly $900 million revenue loss for the state – much higher than the original $512 million cost estimate.

By the end of the fiscal year, BTC estimates a total revenue loss of around $1.1 billion Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

In 2015, many conservative state lawmakers across the country are retreating from the long-held belief that cutting taxes will generate more revenue and spur economic growth. Kansas, Wisconsin, and, yes, North Carolina along with Arthur Laffer, in their efforts to put into practice the flawed theories of trickle-down economics, have created more problems than improvements, according to a recent Politico piece.

Rather than serve as a beacon of competitiveness in the South, North Carolina instead has become a cautionary tale for other states across the country that are considering tax cuts.

The evidence is mounting that tax-cutting experiments aren’t delivering on the promises made by trickle-down economic theory.

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NC Budget and Tax Center

Recent media coverage of the mounting cost of the tax plan highlights the story of 2014. This story began in 2013 with the decision by policymakers to cut taxes for the wealthy and profitable corporations and will likely reach its climax in 2015. How policymakers choose to address the revenue crisis — through more cuts to core public services or a balanced approach that includes additional revenue — will either propel North Carolina forward or backward.  The moral of the story is already clear: North Carolina cannot hope to achieve a competitive and more inclusive position in a growing economy by cutting taxes for the wealthy and profitable corporations.

In early 2014, the reality that the tax plan will cost more than originally projected became clear.  By May, reports of a current year revenue shortfall appeared. Then new data from the IRS confirmed that the tax plan costs would likely be greater, in part, due to the original cost estimates being based on assumptions and income data reflective of an economic downturn rather than a recovering economy. The reality is that the ongoing economic recovery has been very uneven, with the bulk of economic gains flowing to the wealthiest individuals. The latest announcement this fall confirming an even larger revenue shortfall was just the next chapter in a story of an inadequate tax system. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

The Charlotte Observer reports of the strain on the state’s court system in the wake of state budget cuts in recent years. The state’s court system is expected to run out of funding for juror pay by April of next year, the Charlotte Observer highlights.

The ability of the state’s court system to operate effectively has been increasingly challenged amid cuts in state funding over the years. While other states have adopted technology and incorporated electronic filing systems, North Carolina continues to use a paper-based system, which slows down the judicial process. The time taken to complete civil and criminal cases has increased in recent years, the Charlotte Observer article notes, resulting in a judicial system that is inefficient, more costly, and less customer-friendly.

State lawmakers quoted in the article note their unawareness of the pending funding shortage for juror pay and state that the General Assembly is being asked for money that it doesn’t have. This is increasingly clear as stories throughout the state have highlighted yet another announcement that the state’s revenue collections are below projections.  Official estimates now put the revenue shortfall for the current fiscal year at $190 million.

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NC Budget and Tax Center

An insightful interactive map created by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows the extraordinary growth in imprisonment rates nationwide. For North Carolina, the number of individuals under state or federal correctional authority nearly tripled from 1978 to 2013, increasing to 356 from 214 individuals per 100,000 residents over this time period. This growth in the state’s imprisonment rate is accompanied by increased state corrections spending – rising from $538 million in 1978 up to $1.7 billion in 2013 when adjusted for inflation.

Growth in the state’s imprisonment population has been costly for North Carolina and nationally. More and more state dollars for state corrections spending has contributed to fewer dollars available for public schools and other public investments that serve as the foundation of economic growth. In 2011, state lawmakers passed the Justice Reinvestment Act, which aims to manage the state’s prison population growth by creating better outcomes for offenders and, in turn, reduce recidivism. However, the state’s ongoing revenue crisis resulting from costly tax cuts and continued budget cuts limit opportunities for proven, cost-effective initiatives, such as drug treatment courts.

What is clear is that state corrections operations in North Carolina consume a significant amount of resources, and individuals, at the expense of other important public investments.