NC Budget and Tax Center

Report: NC relies too much on fines and fees to finance government and the problem is getting worse

Over the past decade, growth in N.C. agency fee revenue outpaced growth in corporate and personal income tax revenue, according to a new report released today by the N.C. Budget & Tax Center. This increasing reliance on fines and fees is posing challenges for state agencies that are trying to provide relief to North Carolinians during the COVID-19 crisis while coping the uncertainty of lost or delayed fee revenue. These agencies include the Judicial Branch, the Department of Transportation, and the UNC System.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that increasingly relying on fees to fund public services is hurting our ability to provide for North Carolinians,” said Alexandra Sirota, Director of the N.C. Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “In order for North Carolina to better respond to things like COVID-19, we need to rebalance our tax code away from regressive revenue streams like fines and fees and toward more equitable and adequate revenue. We should start by looking at corporate tax rates, which are the lowest in the region.”

The report, “Pandemic lays bare North Carolina’s reliance on fines and fees,” provides an analysis of changes in state revenue collections by source from 2011 to 2018, showing that state revenue from sales tax and fines and fees increased the most during this time, followed by personal income tax revenue.  The analysis also shows that revenue from the corporate income tax decreased dramatically following changes enacted by the General Assembly that went into effect in 2014.

The report argues that, taken together, these changes demonstrate an increasing reliance on regressive sources of revenue in the state, with the burden falling disproportionately on low-income North Carolinians and people of color.

“The current crisis is exposing not only the inequities inherent to North Carolina’s regressive revenue system, but the system’s inability to meet the state’s public investment needs,” said Sally Hodges-Copple, primary author of the report. “North Carolina’s policymakers have repeatedly and steadily shifted the burden for public investment onto those least able to pay, raising fees everywhere from the court system to the DMV to our college campuses, while at the same time asking less from the wealthiest individuals and most profitable corporations.”

The analysis also highlights the impact of regressive revenue changes on higher education in North Carolina, demonstrating how dramatic declines in corporate income tax revenue coincided with decreasing state appropriations to the UNC System and increasing tuition revenue.

Click here to explore the report.

Commentary, News

Online event to take stock of Supreme Court’s abortion rights ruling

North Carolina reproductive freedom advocates will host an online event tomorrow evening to assess the current state and future of abortion rights for American women tomorrow evening. The following is from an announcement distributed by NARAL Pro-Choice NC:

Last Monday’s Supreme Court decision to strike down Louisiana’s anti-abortion law was a necessary and welcome relief, and a huge benefit for folks in Louisiana who may need to access abortion. But….four justices were ready to ditch their own precedent, and a fifth only grudgingly held that precedent up. And all the decision really did was leave the status quo for abortion access in place – important, but nowhere near what is needed for equitable abortion access.

NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina will be hosting a webinar tomorrow, Tuesday July 7, at 6:30 to do a deeper dive into this recent SCOTUS decision, and the state of abortion access in NC. Join us for a lively, engaging and quick (1 hour!) panel discussion with Carolina Abortion Fund, ACLU of North Carolina and two abortion providers. We’ll also show clips of my May interview with Rewire.News senior editor and legal analyst Imani Gandy. Join us!

Link to register:…/WN__LlhwBDeQWuK8tDSMZMUjQ

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Hope you can join us, and please share with folks you think may be interested!

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, race

NC Equal Justice Alliance statement on the murder of George Floyd and call to action for racial justice

George Floyd’s funeral today includes a nationwide call to justice. The latest voice comes from the North Carolina Equal Justice Alliance that joins its community of staff, clients, volunteers, donors, and partners across the state in mourning Floyd’s death, denouncing the police violence and reaffirming the commitment to racial justice.

Here’s more from the Alliance official statement:

We mourn George Floyd, who was killed, tragically and painfully, at the hands of Minneapolis police. The image of Mr. Floyd’s murder is seared into our memories and reinforces the urgency of the fight against systemic racism. Along with so many other senseless deaths, known and unknown — including David McAtee, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Dreasjon Reed, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Keith Collins, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin, Mr. Floyd’s murder is an unmistakable cry for justice long denied and has spurred a mass movement. We support this movement and its call for social change. We mourn the many Black Americans whose lives have been unfairly taken, including those whose murders were not captured on video, whose stories have not made the headline news, or whose names are buried deep in our long and shameful history of racist violence.

As we mourn these deaths, we denounce the White supremacy and anti-blackness that has created and perpetuated an unequal justice system. Race-based discrimination and violence must end. We are justice-seeking organizations working for peace, not silence. We seek to amplify the voices of Black, indigenous, and people of color in our communities, who have for years witnessed firsthand the depth of this crisis and fought for justice on behalf of their communities.

Last week, a group of civil rights leaders called for a National Day of Mourning as the family of George Floyd memorialized his life. Leaders also demanded action to ensure justice through federal, state, and local reform of discriminatory policies and practices within law enforcement and criminal justice systems that oppress and discriminate against Black people in America. We join their call for changes to the systems and structures that give rise to such tragic deaths and rampant inequalities.

The leader of our state’s highest court, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, called on us all to commit to the practice of justice and work together toward change. She wisely stated, in part,

“The work of improving justice is never truly done. Justice is not an achievement. It is a practice. As we change and grow as a society, our understanding of justice changes and grows and expands. And our courts must do the same.

We must come together to firmly and loudly commit to the declaration that all people are created equal, and we must do more than just speak that truth. We must live it every day in our courtrooms. My pledge to you today is that we will.

The recent deaths have once again shed light on the truth that injustice and discrimination still exist. And the protests that have followed have shown us just as brightly that we can come together in expressions of solidarity and grief. My hopeful prayer is that we continue to learn and grow together and that we have the courage to make change where change is so desperately needed.”

The member organizations of the Equal Justice Alliance fight against the impacts of systemic racism and inequality daily as we seek justice on behalf of our clients, in and outside of the courtroom. We resolve to continue our advocacy which at the core seeks to dismantle systems of inequality and we renew our commitment to fight racism in all its forms wherever it may be found.


North Carolina Equal Justice Alliance

The North Carolina Equal Justice Alliance provides central coordination of a sustained, comprehensive, integrated, statewide system to provide the most effective legal services to people in poverty in North Carolina. Members of the Equal Justice Alliance include: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, Council for Children’s Rights, Disability Rights North Carolina, Financial Protection Law Center, Land Loss Prevention Project, Legal Aid of North Carolina, North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission, North Carolina Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts, North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, and Pisgah Legal Services.

News, race

Statement from the NC Justice Center

RALEIGH (June 3, 2020) – In this unparalleled, existential moment, it is essential we hear and listen to the cries of the people in the streets, understanding the genesis of the pain and outrage.

Let’s be clear. Our nation’s wealth and power were built upon a brutal history of slavery and colonization. The violence that many people, especially people of color, have suffered for centuries has directly led us to this watershed moment. The undeniable, systemic racism that led to the horrific murder of George Floyd, as so many before him, has also created patent and dramatic disparities in income, education, health, and working and housing conditions which threaten the very lives of people of color, especially Black people, in North Carolina.

Excessive use of force by police is but one of a long list of brutalities inflicted on the innocent by the machinery of an unequal, polarized, and divided society. Evidence of this truism is found everywhere (if we simply remove the silver from the glass and just look). Black Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. The unemployment rate of Black workers is twice as high as for whites. The poverty rate for Black Americans is twice that of whites. Public schools serving students of color are disproportionately underfunded and have operated for decades in an unconstitutional manner in North Carolina. The odds of dying from pregnancy related complications are almost three times higher for Black women than for white women. Now, with all of these systemic defects laid thread bare, the death rate due to COVID-19 is twice as high as for patients of color as that of white patients. So people are in the streets why isn’t everyone?

As an organization committed to eradicating poverty by advocating for public policies that uplift people and begin to close the disparities fueled by racism and poverty, we understand the anger and frustration of the protests in North Carolina. Now is the time, particularly for white people calling themselves allies, to ask ourselves some difficult questions. Why aren’t we all angry at the injustice and societal inequity that traumatizes our friends and neighbors of color and divides us as a nation? We must be ready to be brave, courageous, and compassionate enough to change the future of our people. For if not now, when? We recognize that we are united in a common life, in which our relationships to and with one another are what will transform our world—for good or for ill. In this moment, we face a choice about what type of transformation we will embrace.

We condemn any escalation of violence by police and support demands for police accountability and reform. Responding with tear gas, riot gear, rubber bullets, and a heavily militarized police force only leads to further harm and distrust.

We stand in solidarity with the rallying cry that Black Lives Matter. We can no longer accept a society built on white supremacy, where Black and Brown people are diminished, disenfranchised, and devalued.

We also recognize that we are one of many organizations releasing statements calling for change, for action, for solidarity when many of our institutions must take an important first step: reckoning. Like much of the nonprofit sector, those in power at our organization are overwhelmingly white people, and we have struggled to dismantle the systems of white privilege in our own internal operations. This is a difficult, but in this moment, much needed admission. In doing so, we stand with renewed resolve to address this issue. We are continuing to work with external racial equity consultants and an internal racial equity working group, developing a diversity and inclusion hiring and retention plan, and offering racial equity training to our staff, management, and governing board.

The time for silence and inaction is over. Words are no substitute for deeds. We can no longer abrogate our responsibility, one to each other. We must open our eyes and our hearts, use our mouths and our minds, and make the promise one does to those one loves, to make for a better life for everyone. No more silence. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever again. By any of us.



May 14 online Crucial Conversation: Prof. Gene Nichol discusses his new book, “Indecent Assembly”

Join us Thursday, May 14 at 12:00 noon for a very special (and virtual) Crucial Conversation:

Professor Gene Nichol discusses his new book:

Indecent Assembly – The North Carolina Legislature’s Blueprint for the War on Democracy and Equality

Gene Nichol is back with his second book, which details the agenda, impacts, and transgressions of the Republican-dominated North Carolina General Assembly that has driven state policymaking over the last decade.

Click here to register.

In Indecent Assembly, Nichol outlines “the stoutest war waged against people of color and low-income citizens seen in America for a half-century.” North Carolina is, Nichol says, involved in a brutal battle for its own decency – a battle that is likely to serve as a testing ground for the entire nation. According to Nichol, If the contest is lost here, especially in the coming 2020 election season, other states will likely abandon defining cornerstones of American liberty and equality as well.

The Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina will join NC Policy Watch for a virtual event and Q&A from the audience.

Don’t miss this very special event!

Click here to register.

Special note: For a limited time, Blair Publishing is offering Indecent Assembly with a bookplate signed by Gene Nichol to the first 75 attendees ordering online. Visit the link to order here.

When: Thursday, May 14 at 12:00 noon

Where: Online; pre-register from the comfort of your home, and remember to social distance!

Suggested contribution: $10 (click here to support our work)

Questions?? Contact Melissa Boughton at 919-861-1454 or [email protected]