NC Budget and Tax Center

At the legislature: One step forward after three steps back in funding local government

Wednesday, members of the House Finance committee voted in favor of House Bill 900 (HB900), which allows North Carolina cities and towns to increase their local sales tax by a quarter cent. This local sales tax increase would have to be approved by a majority of local residents via a local referendum.

The proposal is being considered on the heels of state lawmakers steadily limiting and restricting revenue options for local government in recent years. The repeal of the local privilege tax in 2014, for example, resulted in nearly $63 million in less annual revenue for cities and counties across the state. Corporate income tax dollars were no longer dedicated to school building and infrastructure after the 2013 tax changes. And overall, tax cuts passed since 2013 that largely benefit the highest income earners in the state and profitable corporations have resulted in around $3 billion less in available revenue for public investments and that impacts local governments as well as state public programs and services.

The argument by proponents of the bill is that it provides a needed revenue option to cities and towns so that they can invest in infrastructure and bring jobs to their communities. It does, but is unlikely to fully address the unmet needs in communities and alleviate the fiscal pressures that local governments face. So, one step forward after three steps back – that’s not progress.

The diminished revenue resulting from tax cuts has served as an excuse for state lawmakers pushing the cost of public investments, like public education, down to counties, cities, and towns. For the 2018-19 school year, approximately $293 million in additional funding would be needed to fully fund state-mandated class-size requirements for K-12 classrooms in public schools. If state lawmakers fail to provide the needed additional funding, the cost and burden will fall onto local communities across the state.

Local municipalities need all the support they can garner to help ensure they have adequate resources to meet the needs of their residents and communities. Accordingly, HB900, even in its limiting form, is probably welcomed news for local officials.

However, it is important that we acknowledge the big picture and consider how we get back to being able to invest in the schools and businesses and workers who together drive our economic future forward. For that, we need a reconsideration of North Carolina’s failed tax-cut experiment.

Cedric D. Johnson is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

NC Budget and Tax Center

DACA and Plyer: Two anniversaries in the fight for immigrants’ access to education

Today marks five years since Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was first introduced by President Obama in response to immigrant youth advocating for protection from deportation and the right to work and go to college. Advocates are also celebrating the 35-year-old landmark decision in Plyer v. Doe, which declared that all children, regardless of immigration status had a constitutional right to a free public education. The latest post from the anti-poverty research and advocacy organization CLASP explores the impact of these two milestones, and the work still left to be done. Here’s an excerpt:

“In 1982, the Supreme Court’s Plyler ruling established that all children, regardless of immigration status, have a constitutional right to a free public education and found that denying undocumented children a basic education would create a “permanent underclass” and “foreclose any realistic possibility that they will contribute in even the smallest way to the progress of the nation.” The ruling, however, did not extend to postsecondary education, leaving thousands of undocumented youth—commonly referred to as “Dreamers”—with few options to continue their education beyond high school, including the challenge of lacking the documentation to work legally or stay in the country without fear of deportation.

“Five years ago today, the introduction of DACA completely changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers. The program was a response by the Obama Administration to the failure of Congress to pass legislation that would address the tenuous position of these young people as well as the incredible organizing efforts of Dreamers themselves. DACA provides those eligible with a reprieve from deportation and a work permit for a renewable period of two years. Among other qualifications, applicants must have been under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, entered the country before reaching their 16th birthday, and currently be enrolled in school or another qualifying education program, or have graduated from high school or obtained a general education certificate. Since the program’s inception, more than 780,000 young people have been approved for DACA, and a significant share are current students in our nation’s secondary and postsecondary institutions and are contributing members of our economy. Through DACA, they have stepped forward in good faith to provide information on their status, allowing them to fully live their lives and pursue their goals.”

To read the full post from CLASP, click here.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Trump budget would shift huge SNAP costs to states, put North Carolinians at risk of going hungry

President Trump’s budget proposal would shift a significant share of the cost of the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program’s (SNAP, previously known as Food Stamps) benefits to states and, for the first time, allow states to cut SNAP benefits, seriously threatening SNAP’s extraordinary long-term success  in reducing severe hunger and malnutrition, according to a new report from the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“This proposal threatens to dramatically increase the number of North Carolinians at risk of going hungry,” said Brian Kennedy II, Public Policy Fellow with the Budget & Tax Center. “In a nation of this much wealth, that would be unconscionable. North Carolina’s congressional delegation must reject any proposal that puts North Carolinians, including children, seniors, and people with disabilities, at risk of not getting enough to eat.”

Historically, SNAP benefits have been financed with federal funds to ensure that regional disparities in hunger, poverty and resources are properly addressed which has helped ensure that low-income households have access to adequate food despite where they might live.

The President’s budget would end this longstanding and successful approach by forcing states to cover 10 percent of SNAP benefit costs beginning in 2020, and increasing that share to 25 percent in 2023 and later years. The proposal would cut federal SNAP funding by $116 billion over a decade. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

Two innovative programs that fight child hunger and promote learning

Ensuring that children begin each school day with food in their stomach is an important component of providing a high quality education to all North Carolina students. Combating child hunger helps address the unfortunate reality that 1 in 5 North Carolina children do not have reliable access to an adequate amount of affordable, nutritious food each day, which threatens their classroom learning experiences, well-being and life outcomes.

More than half of the more than 1.4 million students that attended North Carolina’s public schools for the 2015-16 school year qualified for free or reduced cost school meals – that’s around 749,000 students. However, far too many students don’t eat school meal programs for several reasons, such as a lack of time, the stigma associated with the traditional delivery method that schools use to serve school meals, and a lack of awareness about school meal programs.

Two particular anti-hunger initiatives have come to North Carolina in recent years that aim to increase the number of students eating school meals. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) initiative enables eligible schools that serve a high concentration of low-income students to offer a healthy school breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students. Furthermore, the Partners for Breakfast In Classroom (PBIC) initiative provides grants to eligible school to adopt breakfast delivery programs that allow students to eat school breakfast in the classroom after the first bell. The Budget & Tax Center is a state partner in the PBIC initiative. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

Making sure students aren’t hungry should be a top priority for N.C.

The healthy development of children is essential to building and sustaining a prosperous society.  Still, 1 in 5 North Carolina children face food insecurity each day, which threatens their well-being and life outcomes.  Nationally, North Carolina is the 8th most food insecure state in the country, with 1 out of every 6 households being food insecure – meaning these families do not access to food, which is needed to ensure their child is healthy, academically successful, and has sufficient early childhood development.

Food insecure households with children are more likely to have trouble with providing adequate food for the family. For children, poor nutrition is associated with anxiety, diet-related diseases, learning difficulties, health problems, and other poor health outcomes that can affect them throughout their K-12 education journey and as they grow into adulthood.

Addressing North Carolina’s persistent food insecurity challenge requires deliberate attention to the role, design and impact of federal, state and local initiatives that aim to ensure access to food for everyone in communities across the state. The positive link between the health of students and their academic achievement is an opportunity we much seize upon and leverage as a state. Children who eat breakfast perform better on standardized tests and have better concentration in class, increased alertness, improved comprehension, improved memory, and improved learning.

Here are some of the ways in which public policy and initiatives can work to combat child hunger and assist educators with improving the learning outcomes of students. Read more