NC Budget and Tax Center, Uncategorized

Governor Cooper recognizes North Carolina is in a hole, stops digging

Governor Cooper released a proposed budget for 2018-19 that takes an important, though modest, first step in reversing the state’s failed tax cut experiment. The Governor proposed freezing corporate income tax rates at 3 percent rather than allowing them to drop again in January 2019, while also stopping personal income tax rate cuts on higher incomes.

Combined, this fiscally responsible approach will ensure $110 million is available in 2018-19 for public investments in areas that have immediate needs. Over the full Fiscal Year, the result will be an estimated $223 million in revenue available. Even more work will be required to undo the years of cuts that have been the priority of North Carolina’s General Assembly.

The hole we are in is deep.

This prudent first step in this year’s budget process demonstrates, however, what is possible when leaders put public investments before tax cuts. The Governor’s budget invests in a number of priorities in communities across the state, including increasing the number of school nurses and psychologists, funding classrooms, ensuring the Department of Environmental Quality gets the funding it needs to monitor air and water quality, and funding the transition of young people to the juvenile justice system under the Raise the Age proposal, among others.

There is no doubt that the damage of cutting tax cuts to our public institutions and communities has been years in the making and a more thorough adjustment from the tax-cutting approach will be required.

That should not diminish the importance of Governor Cooper’s recognition  that the first step when realizing you are in a hole is to stop digging.  Let’s hope the General Assembly follows suit.

Who pays? Read more

News

UNC grad student on the misuse of Classics in support of Silent Sam

A view of the base of the Silent Sam statue after UNC graduate student Maya Little covered it with red paint and her own blood.

When UNC History student Maya Little was arrested last month and charged with defacing the Silent Sam Confederate monument,  students and faculty in her department expressed their support for her.

Now graduate students in the UNC Classics Department have done the same.

In an essay this week for the Society of Classical Studies, UNC graduate student Kelly McArdle talks about the Little’s case, the history of Silent Sam and the way in which the history and context of the statue has been distorted. She writes about the monument’s notorious dedication speech made by prominent UNC alumn, prominent industrialist and white supremacist Julian Carr and the way in which it drew on classical themes to justify and romanticize the Confederacy – and what that perception means today.

From her piece:

As students of antiquity, we who signed the statement understand the value of preserving historical monuments and artifacts, but we also believe that those monuments and artifacts must be grounded in historical events and eras, rather than being presented as unbiased memorials of the past. Historian and UNC professor Lloyd Kramer recently wrote in response to the “Silent Sam” controversy, “Monuments convey historical interpretations rather than historical facts.” We agree that “Silent Sam” conveys a particular interpretation of southern history. Given that Carr both lauded the Confederate preservation of “the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon” race in the South and bragged about the fact that he himself “horse-whipped a negro wench” 100 yards from where “Silent Sam” stands, we who signed the statement believe the statue conveys a historical interpretation that glorifies the subjugation of black people. By allowing “Silent Sam” to remain in a prominent position on our campus, the university administration allows that interpretation to take precedence over historical fact. As Little wrote in an open letter to UNC Chancellor Carol Folt:

“Today I have thrown my blood and red ink on this statue as a part of the continued mission to provide the context that the Chancellor refuses to. Chancellor Folt, if you refuse to remove the statue, then we will continue to contextualize it. Silent Sam is violence; Silent Sam is the genocide of black people; Silent Sam is antithetical to our right to exist. You should see him the way that we do, at the forefront of our campus covered in our blood.”

We who signed the statement stand in full support of Maya Little’s’s forcible contextualization of “Silent Sam,” which shows the monument for what it truly is: a vestige of and shrine to white supremacy. As long as “Silent Sam” remains on campus, it will necessarily lack the contextual information needed for viewers to understand the circumstances of its dedication and its intended meaning. We believe we must continue to provide that context until the university administration relocates the statue.

Moving forward, we who signed the statement plan to continue speaking out about “Silent Sam” and institutional racism on our campus, including the 16-year moratorium on renaming campus buildings, many of which are named for Confederate supporters and white supremacists. We are committed to defending Maya Little, using our expertise in the study and preservation of the ancient world to show that her action was a dedicated historian’s necessary response to a white-washed version of history. We are glad to have the continued support of our faculty in this endeavor. Our hope is to see “Silent Sam” moved to a local museum or historical site, such as UNC’s Ackland Art Museum or the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, where future historians and proper signage can provide visitors with the statue’s proper context. Such a gesture would be only the beginning of acknowledging and rectifying the racist legacy of our university. Our continued involvement also speaks to our desire to rectify part of the legacy of our discipline. We hope always to learn from the past, but never to romanticize it.

Read the whole essay here.

Commentary

Dan Forest, GOP to take credit today for school program Republicans voted against

Lt. Gov. Forest

Not that it comes as any great surprise, but Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s perpetual campaign for higher office will be in full swing today when he and some Republican politicians descend on an Alamance County high school to claim credit for connecting all of our state’s schools to high-speed broadband. The folks over at one of Forest’s chief P.R. firms — the John Locke Foundation — published an article in their Carolina Journal newsletter last Friday informing us of the plan:

“North Carolina is the first state to connect all K-12 classrooms to high-speed broadband. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will host a celebration of this achievement  Tuesday, May 22, at Graham High School.

State Superintendent Mark Johnson; Alamance-Burlington Superintendent William Harrison; Rep. Stephen Ross, R-Alamance; and Rep. Dennis Riddell, R-Alamance, will also attend.

‘Connecting all of our public school classrooms to high-speed broadband will bridge the education divide allowing opportunity for an excellent education to all public-school students,’ Forest said.

Through the School Connectivity Initiative, every public school in the state has high-speed broadband access. SCI was created in 2007 to support the enhancement of technology infrastructure in public schools. Funds were appropriated for broadband access, equipment, and support services.

While it’s great to expand broadband (indeed, one wishes Forest and his fellow conservatives would stop stonewalling plans at the General Assembly to let local municipalities do just that) there is a rather glaring omission in the Locke puff piece that deserves to be noted. It turns out that the 2007 School Connectivity Initiative mentioned in the article was a program launched by a Democratic General Assembly and the administration of former Gov. Mike Easley in the 2007 budget bill. What’s more, as can be seen here and here, every Republican legislator except for one (including Phil Berger and Tim Moore) voted against that bill.

Maybe Forest and Representatives Ross and Riddell (none of whom was serving in Raleigh in 2007) would have broken with Republican leadership at the time to vote for the Democratic budget and the investments contained in the School Connectivity Initiative, but it seems like a distinct longshot. An Internet search produced no evidence that any of the three men were critical of the “no” votes at the time.

But, of course, strange claims of credit are nothing new for Forest, a politician who, as Lt. Governor, long kept a running total on his website of jobs created in North Carolina during his tenure in office, even though he had noting of note to do with any of them.

The bottom line: Let’s hope today’s event signals that arch-conservative North Carolina Republicans are turning over a new leaf when it comes to bipartisanship and a commitment to investments in essential public infrastructure and that maybe they’ll even give Democrats the credit for launching the program they’ll be lauding today.

The advice from this corner, however, is not to hold your breath waiting for such a turnaround.

Commentary

Policy Prescription #6 – The case for Medicaid expansion remains as strong as ever

As the 2018 legislative session gets underway in earnest in this, its first full week, we hope you will continue reading our special series “Policy Prescriptions” researched and written by A. J. Fletcher Foundation Fellow Samone Oates-Bullock. Last week, Prescription #1 addressed food insecurity in North Carolina. Prescription #2 took on the issue of early childhood investments. Prescription #3 analyzed the challenge of funding school adequately and fairly. Policy Prescription #4 called for racial equity in education. Policy Prescription #5 called for tackling the issue of environmental racism in North Carolina.

This is from Policy Prescription #6 “Closing the coverage gap: The case for Medicaid expansion remains as strong as ever”:

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted in 2010 in order to expand coverage, control rising healthcare costs, and improve the overall quality of healthcare in America. One of the major provisions of ACA was the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to low-income individuals with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($28,676 for a family of three). This expansion would help to fill notable gaps in Medicaid eligibility and extend insurance coverage to low-income individuals. In 2013, North Carolina enacted legislation that prevents any state actor—including the Governor—from expanding Medicaid unless authorized by the General Assembly. As a result,  hundreds of thousands of low-income  North Carolinians are being left in the “coverage gap” — a place in which they earn  too much to be eligible for Medicaid, but too little to qualify for marketplace subsidies that would  allow them to purchase insurance in the private market. Closing the coverage gap would significantly change the landscape of healthcare coverage and access in North Carolina by providing coverage to more than 208,000  North Carolinians and, literally, saving thousands of lives.

Click here to read the entire report.

Education, News

Report points to financial, legal complications of Matthews charter school battle

Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg

A new report authored by a longtime N.C. General Assembly attorney points to multiple financial and legal complications associated with a controversial proposal to clear a town-run charter school in the Charlotte suburb of Matthews.

Among those complications, the report—written by Gerry Cohen, a former General Assembly lawyer and chief of bill drafting—notes state law bars towns like Matthews from taking on debt to build a municipal charter.

Nor would the town be cleared to use state funds in order to buy land or build a school, meaning the Charlotte suburb would likely have to cough up millions for the school upfront, possibly by raising taxes.

The report claimed significant implications for local teachers’ retirement benefits too.

Sen. Jeff Jackson, a Charlotte Democrat who opposes the Matthews charter, questioned Monday how a town with a budget of about $23 million would pay for a $30 million school. “I don’t think proponents of this bill have leveled with the people of Matthews about the fiscal realities,” Jackson said.

Last year’s House Bill 514 applies to the Charlotte suburbs of Matthews and Mint Hill, although it has the potential to set the table for similar suburban clashes in large school systems such as Wake County. And, as Policy Watch has reported, it comes laden with concerns about the creation of a predominantly white town splitting off from a decidedly more diverse school system like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). 

Jackson said last year’s bill, co-sponsored by Matthews Republican Bill Brawley, would be a “precedent-setting piece of legislation” if approved by state lawmakers this year.

Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg

Cohen’s report was touted Monday in a press conference by critics of the so-called “secession” proposal, chief among them school district leaders in CMS. The former legislative attorney said he was asked to draft the report by CMS lawyer George Battle, although he said he was not directed what to write.

CMS officials have been engaged in a war of words with Matthews town leaders in recent months. Matthews leaders say they want more say in their local schools, as well as a long-term guarantee that the district won’t force student reassignments in order to diversify racially-isolated schools like those found in the city’s predominantly white suburbs.

The progressive N.C. Justice Center issued a report this year that found CMS to be, by far, the most racially segregated district in North Carolina (Disclosure: The Justice Center is Policy Watch’s parent nonprofit).

School district leaders counter that splitting the district would be costly and inefficient, unpopular with Matthews residents, and may only exacerbate segregation worries.

It’s unclear whether Brawley’s draft bill will be a priority for the Republican-led legislature as members ramp up their short session in the coming weeks. The bill swept through the state House last year. But after a study committee led by Brawley this year punted on any specific school system splits, the proposal seemed to lose momentum.

CMS Chair Mary McCray

CMS Board of Education Chair Mary McCray told reporters Monday that the district is speaking out forcefully on House Bill 514 after leaders “made multiple attempts to provide reasonable solutions.”

School board Vice Chair Rhonda Cheek said Cohen’s analysis “could and should cause pause” with lawmakers.

“This bill is a nightmare for taxpayers,” said McCray, arguing that residents of Matthews would be “double-taxed” to support the charter school by both the county district and the town.

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