NC Budget and Tax Center

The last weekend before Tax Day is here and in the last minute rush to get your returns in, it can be helpful to reflect on why taxes matter.  Taxes are as some have said “the price we pay for civilized society” and more simply the way in which we invest together in building a stronger state through the creation of opportunity and establishment of a basic quality of life for all North Carolinians.

In the aftermath of the disastrous tax plan that passed last year, just how taxes play a role in our everyday lives has become clearer.  Taxes make it possible for our children to have a quality classroom experience, taxes fund monitoring and inspection that protect the quality of our water, taxes build the infrastructure that connect workers to jobs and support business in job creation.  And yet, the tax plan has created a self-imposed budget crisis that will undermine our ability to invest in these foundations of a strong economy.

Beyond that fundamental role of funding core public services, who pays under the tax code matters too.  And the tax plan passed last year makes an already upside down even worse: low- and middle-income taxpayers pay more as a share of their income than wealthy taxpayers.  This not only hurts families who are trying to make ends meet on falling or stagnating wages, it compromises the long term ability of the tax system to fund public services since it taxes where the income growth is not occurring, which creates a gap as needs increases but revenue can’t keep up. Read More

Some underling and troubling trends are revealed in the Fiscal Research Division’s newly released third Quarterly General Fund Revenue Report, which provides an assessment of revenue for the state. Not much has changed since the Division’s second quarterly report. Both reports foreshadow some of the particular challenges of the new tax plan—namely the fact that tax rate reductions for profitable corporations will be big revenue losers for the state.

On net, the General Fund was $12.1 million above the $14.5 billion revenue target for the first-three quarters of the current fiscal year that ends in June 2014. This marks a reduction from the $83 million point-in-time “surplus” that accrued by the end of the second quarter. The gap could shrink even further by the end of the month depending on any volatility in revenue collections post-tax season—a factor dubbed as the “April Surprise.”

Revenue collections were ahead of target by the end of the third quarter largely due to stronger-than-expected performances by the sales tax and the corporate income tax on net. Read More

Partial privatization of the N.C. Department of Commerce took another step closer to reality yesterday when the Economic Development and Global Oversight Committee (or EDGE Committee) reported out updated enabling legislation that authorizes the establishment of a nonprofit corporation to conduct significant pieces of the state’s business development activities. Using last year’s SB 127 as a template, the new version of the bill includes important changes—some for the better, some for the worse, and some that make us go “huh?”

Read More

Yesterday, the Budget & Tax Center released a report on the number of North Carolinians who would have been working or seeking work if the Great Recession had never happened and job opportunities had remained strong over the last five years.  The report highlights using this new measure the troubling trend of too few jobs and workers leaving the labor force.  In addition, it pulls together compelling national research finding that most or all of the labor force decline is driven by a weak labor market.  Among the key findings:

  • 250,000 North Carolinians are missing from the labor force
  • If those missing workers were counted as unemployed, the unemployment rate would be nearly double the official rate for February 2014.

The report comes as national economists gathered this week to push for a full employment agenda, one that would seek to expand job opportunities and bring more folks into the labor market to support a stronger economic growth trajectory.  As attention nationally turns to the issue of persistent joblessness and the harm it is creating for workers and the economy, it is important for North Carolina’s policymakers to focus on good quality job creation and policies that support strong connections to the labor force for workers in a weak labor market.

This morning the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in collaboration with leaders in the field of economics launched a push for a full employment agenda in America.  At the current moment when five years into the recovery there are still too few jobs for those who want to work, this effort couldn’t be more critical for the country and our own state of North Carolina.

So what would it mean to set as a goal full employment?  Full employment is generally described as the situation where the number of people seeking jobs and the number of employers seeking workers is closely matched.  The traditional trade-off economists focus on in discussions of full employment is the negative relationship with inflation.  But in practice, it is difficult to accurately pin down a level of unemployment that leads to rising inflation and there are tools available to allow the Federal Reserve to address inflation if it begins to tick up.

The benefits of full employment are too great to ignore.  A tight labor market pushes for more equitable distribution of growth, improves the connection to the labor market of workers and improves career trajectories.  Full employment is also connected to higher hourly wages and more work hours which is especially important as involuntary part-time work has grown.  It also has been demonstrated to improve fiscal accounts as revenues increase and expenditures on some safety net programs decline.

A full employment agenda requires federal and state policy action.  Among the policies that will be explored during today’s symposium are:

  • Stimulative fiscal policy
  • Lowering the trade deficit
  • Direct job creation
  • Worksharing
  • Manufacturing jobs
  • Apprenticeships and On-the-Job Training
  • Job quality

These concrete ideas for our economy, based in the best available evidence, provide an important re-orientation at a time when we are all seeking to improve the opportunities for working North Carolinians and Americans and grow our economy better into the future.

You can watch the launch of this event live here.