ff-8292013It’s depressing as hell, but everyone who cares about North Carolina public policy should make this new report by the N.C. Budget and Tax Center’s Cedric Johnson: “Who Pays in 2014″ a part of their Tax Day reading list.

As Johnson reports:

“Changes are coming to who pays taxes in North Carolina, and the news is not good for middle- and low-income taxpayers. This tax season marks the final year taxpayers will file their income taxes under the state’s old tax code and by next year it will be apparent to many taxpayers that the tax plan has not just reduced available dollars for investing in core public services, but also has increased the tax load for many. Read More

Mitigation costs for 450 ppm

Global mitigation costs for stabilization at a level “likely” to stay below 2°C (3.6°F). Source: IPCC 2014 and www.thinkprogress.org

There’s more compelling evidence today — both around the world and here in North Carolina — of the urgent need to move to world economy off of its addiction to the heroin of fossil fuels. Moreover, as this story from the good people at Think Progress reports, such a shift can occur with only a minor economic hit if we act now.

“The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just issued its third of four planned reports. This one is on ‘mitigation’ — ‘human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.’ Read More

K12May9As regular visitors to N.C. Policy Watch are well-aware, the phenomenon of so-called “virtual charter schools” is an issue of great controversy these days. Proponents say they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread , but as several stories here (especially about the troubled for-profit virtual charter  company K-12, Inc.) have documented, the bread often gets sliced pretty thin by these outfits. Not all virtual charter companies are dishonest scammers, but enough are to render the entire concept highly questionable.

A Sunday editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal does a good job of reiterating this hard truth:

“Some legislators want North Carolina to jump into business with for-profit companies that would run the online charters. But this is a decision that should not be made rashly. The [state Board of Education's] preference of a go-slow approach makes much more sense….

Virtual charters raise a great many questions about their effectiveness, their impact on traditional public schools and other charters, their availability to students of all economic backgrounds and their quality.

Many educators fear that virtual charters are a scam, nothing more than a way for a for-profit business to siphon off some of the tax money being spent on public education….

The cautious approach that allows the state to learn how virtual charters work best is the right way to go.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

 

 

imageA popular theme on the Right is that having Medicaid health coverage is worse than having no health insurance at all.  After all the years I’ve spent traveling North Carolina and meeting people in poverty desperate for basic health care but with no way to pay for coverage I still can’t believe people can make this argument with a straight face.  Well, if you read one thing this weekend, read the incredibly moving story of the hardworking mom in Orlando, Florida who would have qualified for Medicaid but hasn’t because Florida, like NC, has refused to expand Medicaid.  She dropped dead – on a sales call for her vacuum cleaner sales job no less – of an existing heart condition she couldn’t adequately treat because she couldn’t adequately pay for coverage.

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