NC Budget and Tax Center

Among the nation’s 50 states, North Carolina experienced the biggest increase in the proportion of people living in high-poverty areas between 2000 and 2010, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau  report.The growing number of North Carolinians living in disadvantaged neighborhoods is problematic because they face restricted access to the jobs, education, and networks that can improve their financial standing.The new report signals the need for policymakers to focus on the investments and policies that support ladders of opportunity, from Murphy to Manteo, to all North Carolinians.

The report defined high-poverty areas as places that have poverty rates of 20 percent or higher. The federal poverty level for a family of 4 is stingy, a mere $23,550—which is far lower than the $52,275 needed to make ends meet in North Carolina, per the Budget and Tax Center’s 2014 Living Income Standard. And, the 2010 data reflects the 2008-2012 five-year average.

The extent of people (poor and non-poor) living in high-poverty areas is far worse in North Carolina than in the nation, according to the report. In 2010, 31.8 percent of all North Carolinians lived in high-poverty areas compared to 25.7 percent of all Americans. If you’re poor, however, the chances of also living in high-poverty areas are far higher: more than 1 in 2 poor North Carolinians live in high-poverty areas—a concept known as the “double burden.”

In the entire nation, the share of people (poor and non-poor) living in high-poverty areas grew the fastest in North Carolina from 2000 to 2010, jumping 17.9 percentage points (see graphic below). Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

State budget writers are currently grappling with the task of ironing out a final budget in the face of last year’s huge tax cuts that are hampering our ability to invest in the building blocks of a strong economy. As we entered into the new fiscal year without a revised budget, the News and Observer Editorial Board called upon lawmakers to reconsider their revenue-losing, lopsided tax plan. Here’s more from their editorial that ran over the weekend:

As North Carolina lawmakers struggle to agree on the second year of the state budget, it’s becoming clear that last year’s decision to cut taxes came too early and went too far. The state compressed its three-level personal income tax rates of 6, 7 and 7.75 percent to a flat 5.8 percent and reduced the corporate tax rate from 6.5 to 6 percent.

Had the Republican-led General Assembly held off on these cuts, North Carolina would be enjoying a budget surplus now. There would be money to increase teacher pay without cutting education elsewhere. There would be money to invest in the University of North Carolina and in the state’s neglected roads, bridges and water systems. And there would be money for modest, well-targeted tax cuts.

Instead, the legislature’s Republican leaders and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory cut taxes in a way that is creating an artificial crisis. The state doesn’t have enough money to meet the needs of its growing population and can’t find a sustainable way to lift the public schools teachers’ pay that has sunk to 48th in the nation. In North Carolina, the rich are getting richer as the stock market hits all-time highs and corporations are profiting from a rising economy, but the state has forgone the tax boom that should have come with that recovery.

….

Lawmakers should take another look at taxes and find a way to generate revenues that will meet the state’s needs and support its ambitions.

Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina Senate and House budget writers met today in a rare public meeting to break the budget logjam and iron out a final budget deal for the 2015 fiscal year (FY)—which began yesterday. Because lawmakers approved a two-year budget last year as part of the biennial budgeting process, vital public services and programs are continuing but at modified levels per the Governor’s budget directive.

Leaving the budget for FY2015 in place is an option but it’s a bad option. Spending for Medicaid would be far below what’s needed under the already-approved budget due to enrollment and claims backlogs as well as the Medicaid rebase. The budget also fails to include other election-year priorities such as much-needed pay raises for state employees and teachers.

The Senate and House all put forward budget proposals that use wildly different estimates on items that should be fairly consistent across budget proposals. Before moving on to sub-committee negotiations where the full budget differences will be hashed out, budget writers’ goal for the meeting today was to seek harmony on a final budget estimate for three basic areas: 1) agency reversions; 2) the Medicaid shortfall and rebase; and 3) lottery revenues. Doing so allows budget writers to know how much money is available on the spending side. Lawmakers walked away with an agreement on estimates for agency reversions and Medicaid estimates but not on the lottery revenues. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

In a bizarre turn of events, the House Committee on Appropriations met today to review and vote on a new spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. The bill passed in what appears to be along partisan lines, and it heads to the House floor tomorrow. For the most part, the new spending plan leaves in place the second year (FY2015) of the two-year budget that lawmakers already approved last year. The changes are mainly geared toward moving lottery dollars into the General Fund, boosting pay for teachers and state employees, and adjusting the education budget.

See the NC Budget and Tax Center’s statement on the budget here.

The day started with Governor McCrory and Speaker Tillis holding a joint press conference at 1pm to make an education announcement. It was revealed that House leadership planned to unveil a new spending plan that doesn’t rely on raising additional lottery dollars generated from increased advertising.  What wasn’t mentioned at the press conference is that the new plan relies on more lottery dollars to finance pay raises, those dollars just aren’t generated from relaxing the advertising rules. Those dollars just happen to be the result of revised lottery projections under current rules. In other words, the budget is still relying on a source of funding that is unstable and regressive. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

In an unexpected move on Monday, Governor McCrory directed state agencies to prepare for budget cuts in case lawmakers fail to iron out a budget deal before the fiscal year ends in six days. Art Pope, the Budget Director at the Office of State Budget and Management, laid out the budget guidelines in a two-page memo that orders agencies to plan for the worst-case- scenario between the Senate and House budgets. Here is a summary of the directive:

  • Agencies must take the highest cut (for the entire agency rather than on a line-item basis) that is presented in either the Senate or House budget.
  • The rule above doesn’t apply to spending associated with Teacher Assistants (TAs), which is cut in half under the Senate budget. This would mean that spending for TAs would remain at the levels in the FY2015 budget that is already on the books (see note below on the biennial budget process). This is in contrast to the Governor’s own budget, which cuts funding for TAs by nearly $20 million.
  • Filled positions that are eliminated in either the Senate or House budgets should be treated as such. Similarly, vacant positions that are eliminated in either of the proposals shall not be filled.
  • No pay raises are authorized. Nor are any expansion items in either of the proposals.

The Governor, Senate, and House already put forward their respective budgets. Now, those differences are being ironed out in what’s known as the conference process where the Senate and House leadership come together to strike a final budget deal. Because the conference process is dominated by legislators, the Governor is more or less shut out of the process—especially now because of the veto-proof majorities in both chambers. The budget memo represents a way for the Governor to pressure the legislative leadership to iron out their differences in a timely fashion. It also serves to demonstrate the worst-case scenario’s deleterious impact on the average North Carolinian.

Even if lawmakers throw their hands up in the air and leave Jones Street without striking a final budget deal Read More