NC Budget and Tax Center

NC Budget and Tax Center

Supporting homegrown startups and young, fast-growing in-state companies is likely to be a more effective strategy for states to create jobs and build a strong economy than across-the-board tax cuts and other attempts to lure businesses from elsewhere that many states pursue today.

A new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities titled “State Job Creation Strategies Often Off Base highlights findings from new research showing that the vast majority of jobs are created by businesses that start up or are already present in a state. The report’s authors conclude that “many state policymakers pursue economic development strategies that are bound to fail because they ignore these fundamental realities about job creation.”

When states pursue tax cuts, they divert resources needed to help home-grown startups and young, fast-growing companies deliver maximum job growth and to build a climate that supports their growth.

Never has the cost of tax cuts to job creation been clearer than in North Carolina where state leaders’ pursuit of income tax cuts has reduced dollars targeted to help entrepreneurs in North Carolina build out their ideas and grow their enterprises. State support for community development finance institutions that support small business development in underserved communities has declined, direct investments in main street revitalization in small towns and cities, and rural economic development and infrastructure have also been significantly restricted in recent years. Meanwhile, North Carolina has failed to pursue many of the best practices in other states that take the best research and development to scale, promote innovative community economic development planning locally through targetted grants or most basically to sufficiently support the best business ideas in local communities that can achieve more inclusive economies. At the same time, public investments that are the foundation of a quality life—investments in good quality schools, parks and recreation—have eroded in our state putting at risk key foundations of entrepreneurship and innovation.

This new research in the report uses improved data to better inform our understanding of which businesses create jobs, and where they create them – calling into serious question the value of large-scale tax cuts and the various other tax breaks states typically offer businesses to move. Among the facts that counter ineffective tax-cut strategies:

  • About 87 percent of private-sector job creation from 1995 to 2013 in the median state was “home grown.” The job creation came from startups, the expansion of employment at existing establishments, and the creation of new in-state locations by businesses already headquartered in the state.
  • Large income tax cuts that a number of states have enacted or are proposing are especially poorly suited to helping startups and other rapidly growing firms, in part because these businesses often have little income in their early years.
  • The most commonly cited reason among entrepreneurs for starting their companies where they did was that it was where they lived at the time. Eighty percent of these entrepreneurs lived in the city where they started their companies for at least two years prior to starting their business. A survey by Endeavor Insight consulting firm concluded that founders of fast-growing companies decide where to live based on personal connections, the talent of the local workforce, and quality-of-life factors. Only five percent of these successful entrepreneurs even mentioned taxes as a reason why they founded their companies where they did.
  • To promote and assist job-generating entrepreneurship, states would be wise to invest in schools and colleges, improving workers’ skills, and maintaining communities that are attractive to residents who want to start a business. Successful entrepreneurs report these factors were key to where they founded their companies.

Bottom-line: Homegrown startups and fast-growing firms already in the state are much more important sources of job creation. Public investments that help build a skilled workforce and improve the quality of life for local residents are better bets for supporting real economic progress.

 

NC Budget and Tax Center

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson recently proposed a 10 percent pay increase for public school teachers. In response, NC House Speaker Moore stated that he doesn’t think that’s a realistic goal because North Carolina can’t afford the price tag. Speaker Moore says he believes we must pay our teachers more than we do, but that this should be done in a responsible way.

The requested pay increase comes as North Carolina ranks among the very bottom of states for average teacher pay. State funding for pay increases in recent years has largely targeted early-career teachers, leaving more experienced educators wondering if they will ever get a meaningful pay increase.

The reason providing teachers a 10 percent pay increase is deemed a hefty, unrealistic task by state leaders is clear – costly tax cuts ushered through by state leaders in recent years. Tax cuts included in the current two-year budget, once fully phased in, will reduce annual state revenue by more than $1 billion. When you include the cost of the tax cuts passed in 2013, the combined reduction in annual revenue increases to more than $2 billion. These are dollars that would otherwise be available under the old tax code in place prior to the tax changes. The tax cuts largely benefited the already well-off and profitable corporations and shifted the tax load to low- and middle-income families and individuals.

State leaders have proven their ability to push through their priorities in recent years and tax cuts have certainly been a major priority. The self-inflicted challenge that North Carolina faces – providing all teachers a meaningful raise – is a result of state leaders’ dogged pursuit of more and more tax cuts. This challenge is not happenstance, but rather a consequence of choices made by state lawmakers.

North Carolina’s ability to make public investments that are crucial to promoting widespread prosperity and that support a growing economy requires a tax system that raises adequate revenue to meet the growing needs of our state. Tax cuts passed in recent years will increasingly challenge our ability to strengthen the foundation that ensures opportunity for all North Carolinians – quality public schools, affordable higher education, and healthy and vibrant communities, for example.

What is not realistic is for state lawmakers to continue cutting taxes, which reduces revenue for public investments, and expect our state to be able to compete for good-paying jobs and remain an attractive state to raise a family and operate a business. All North Carolinians lose as we are taken down this dangerous path of cutting taxes at the expense of investing in our people and our future.

NC Budget and Tax Center

News that revenue is up in North Carolina doesn’t mean that we have what is needed to meet our state’s growing needs. In fact, total state revenue for the second quarter of fiscal year 2016 was below the level of revenue raised for the same period prior to the end of the Great Recession, fiscal year 2008, when adjusted for inflation.

By contrast, a majority of states experienced state tax receipts (adjusted for inflation) that exceeded their respective peak levels before the end of the recession in the third quarter of 2015, based on BTC’s analysis of most recent state tax collections data provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.* North Carolina ranked 34th worst among states, with tax revenue below its peak quarter prior to the end of the recession. The recent revenue outlook report from the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division highlights that we still have not reached this peak revenue level.

News from state officials that as of December 2015 revenue was up over the year still does not signal that North Carolina is collecting revenue in line with our state’s growing needs.

State leaders’ insatiable appetite for tax cuts largely explains why state tax revenue for North Carolina has yet to return to its peak pre-recession level, despite an improving national economy. The huge, costly tax cuts passed since 2013 greatly reduced annual revenue that otherwise would have been raised under the old tax system. Once all tax changes are fully implemented, annual revenue loss will total more than $2 billion dollars.

The massive revenue loss from tax cuts challenges our ability to make investments in the foundation that help move our state forward. State leaders claim that providing all teachers a meaningful raise is unrealistic. State funding per student for public schools remains below its pre-recession spending level when adjusted for inflation. State funding for our public universities is 16 percent below pre-recession spending while tuition and mandatory fees increased by nearly 43 percent during this period. Tuition at community colleges has increased by 81 percent since 2009. More than 6,400 fewer state-funded slots are available for NC Pre-K than in 2009 despite more than 7,200 children being on NC Pre-K wait lists last year. State support to help promote economic development in rural and distressed communities across the state has been cut drastically in recent years. Inadequate state support to help unemployed and underemployed North Carolinians retool and retrain in order to secure better paying jobs to support their families persists. These are examples of foregone opportunities to invest in our people and our future. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

A report released today by Budget & Tax Center highlights that state support for early childhood development, public schools, and public colleges and universities remains below investment levels prior to the Great Recession. This trend will persist under the current budget passed by state lawmakers that North Carolinians must live through until July of 2017. The annual cost of tax cuts in 2015 balloons to over $1 billion each year within four years, and comes on top of costly tax cuts passed by state lawmakers in 2013.

Ensuring high-quality learning and education opportunities for all North Carolina children and students remains a challenge as the student population grows and best practices in the classroom evolve. The BTC report highlights areas of inadequate investment in North Carolina’s education pipeline.

  • State funding for NC Pre-K is 15 percent lower when adjusted for inflation than the 2009 budget year, when funding and the number of children served peaked. This year, more than 6,400 fewer state-funded slots are available in NC Pre-K than in 2009 despite more than 7,200 children being on NC Pre-K wait lists last year.
  • State support for the Smart Start program, which promotes school readiness for North Carolina children from birth to age five, is nearly 40 percent below 2009 when adjusted for inflation.
  • State funding per-pupil for public K-12 schools is nearly 9 percent below its 2008 pre-recession funding level when adjusted for inflation.
  • Compared to peak funding in the 2008 budget year, state support per student at four-year public universities this year is down nearly 16 percent while tuition have increased significantly during this time period.
  • Tuition at community colleges has increased by 81 percent since 2009.

The report highlights other areas of diminished and lagging support for public education – the decline in state funding for classroom textbooks, for example – and how state lawmakers shifted existing state dollars from one area to another to make state support for public education appear more generous than in reality.

Public investments in early childhood development, quality public schools, and affordable higher education are essential building blocks of long-term economic growth and shared prosperity. Yet amid an uneven and slow economic recovery, state policymakers chose to deliver greater benefits to the wealthiest few rather than boosting investments in its education pipeline to ensure access to opportunity for all North Carolina children and students, the report notes.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Tax cuts in North Carolina’s biennium budget will cost the state $841.8 million through June 2017, according to a new report from the N.C. Budget & Tax Center. Gutting these funds would deal a heavy blow to support for programs in areas like early childhood development and public schools.

Check out the full brief here.