NC Budget and Tax Center

NC Budget and Tax Center

Amidst a flurry of legislation during this session’s waning hours, one provision added to HB 318 last week that would restrict how local communities deal with immigration will be heard in the House. As is so often the case with last minute bills, the real costs of this measure are not well understood, and they could be major.

The provision in question (on pages 5 and 6 of the bill) would invalidate local identification or policies that support local law enforcement efforts to achieve their goals for public safety and community building. This provision seems designed only to prevent local communities from implementing common-sense measures that protect public safety, and it could have negative consequences for local economies and local budgets.

Local public safety officials in Greensboro joined community leaders yesterday to caution state policymakers against moving ahead with this legislation.  They cited in particular the challenges it will have in helping immigrants report crimes and the likelihood that it will increase arrests as police will be unable to identify community members. A Burlington police officer shared: “If they limit the type of ID that we can accept, you’re gonna have a whole lot more people that are arrested and booked into jails tying up valuable law enforcement resources.” Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

North Carolina is the fifth hungriest state in the nation. Yet, the state Senate gave tentative approval to a bill that unnecessarily restricts food aid for childless adults who are very poor and live in areas where jobs are scarce—regardless of how hard they are looking for work.

States can temporarily suspend work-related time-limits on federal food aid for areas with sustained high levels of unemployment. North Carolina officials applied for a waiver in July for 77 of the state’s 100 counties due to a severe lack of jobs available that hampers North Carolinians’ ability to meet the work requirements (see map below). The Senate measure, however, would permanently ban the state from pursuing this option irrespective of how local economies are faring or whether employment and training opportunities actually exist.

Between 85,000 and 105,000 unemployed childless adults in North Carolina would lose food aid in 2016 because they can’t find a job if legislators prohibit the Governor’s administration from seeking a new waiver.*   Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

The Connect NC Bond Act does not appear to be driven by a single coherent vision of how to use state investments to support economic growth. As can be seen below, the House and Senate versions put out over the last month have varied enormously over the total size of the bond and the type of projects to be funded. Concerns over cutting taxes while going farther into debt aside, the bond act shows that there is no single guiding star by which the legislature is sailing.

BOND PROPOSAL - pie charts2-LAND

To be fair, some of this is just the legislative process in action. When you’re making a multi-billion dollar sausage, there’s going to be lots of back and forth on the ingredients. Still, while the bond bill outlines how important investments are to our economic future, it reveals relatively little consensus on what those investments are or how to make them.

Here are a few of the major changes to the bill compared to what the House presented last month (For a complete breakdown of how the bond package has changed, see the document below): Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Identification is a necessity in modern life. From accessing utility services to checking a book out of the library, having an ID card can support participation in the day to day life of a community. For many, ID cards are difficult to secure and as a result their full participation in civic and economic life is limited.

Another late change to House Bill 318 would likely limit the ability of local governments to build trust with immigrant communities and pursue identification policies.

This is counter to emerging practice across the country, including in some North Carolina cities, where providing a municipal identification card to ensure residents can access basic public services, support a sense of membership in the community and facilitate identification for public safety and economic activities. Since 2007, six municipalities have developed ID card programs. New Haven (CT) was the first to do so in June 2007, followed by San Francisco (CA) in November 2007, Oakland (CA) in June 2009, Richmond (CA) in July 2011, Los Angeles (CA) in November 2012, and New York City (NY) in June 2014. Several other cities have considered or are considering ID card programs, including Minneapolis (MN), Chicago (IL), and Dayton (OH). Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

State policymakers seem to think we can spare the money for another $1 billion tax cut, but also need to run up $2 billion* in new debt for core investments. The NC Senate this week takes up the Connect NC Bond Act of 2015 (HB 943), which would use debt instead of regular appropriations to pay for a range of repair and renovation projects. While now is a great time to borrow for major new investments, cutting taxes at the same time is bad news for North Carolina’s long-term fiscal house.

There are good reasons to issue debt right now. Interest rates are still pegged to the floor and low oil prices make it cheaper to complete construction projects. After seven years of below average appropriations, especially during the recovery, the list of overdue repair and upgrade projects is as long as your arm (assuming you’re on the tall side).

Simultaneously running up debt and cutting taxes is risky business. Together, the cost of tax cuts passed last week and repaying new debt will set North Carolina up for future cuts to core government functions that are already stretched beyond the breaking point. More tax cuts may also topple North Carolina’s credit rating, which already happened to states like Kansas when they cut taxes.  If lenders get even more edgy about North Carolina’s shaky fiscal house, they may demand higher interest rates in a few years’ time when the last of the bonds authorized by HB 943 would go to the credit market.

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