Commentary
Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer

Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer

The folks running the North Carolina General Assembly may decide to buck public opinion yet again in the coming weeks and force through Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer’s legislation to put killing machines in the hands of more dangerous people, but one gets the sense that the momentum to stop such proposals and preserve some of the state’s remaining modest and common sense gun regulations is growing.

Schaffer’s bill is now drawing national attention as is evidenced by the fine op-ed in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer by Prof. Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University entitled “Making it easier for criminal to get guns in NC.” Here’s Webster:

“Research indicates that the proposed changes would lead to more violent crime in North Carolina. A study of legal handgun purchasers in California during the period just before the state barred violent misdemeanants from possessing handguns found that violent misdemeanants were roughly 10 times more likely to be arrested for committing a violent crime after purchasing a handgun than were truly law-abiding purchasers. When California changed its law to prohibit persons convicted of violent misdemeanors from having firearms, the newly prohibited group was much less likely to commit violent crime than individuals with similar criminal histories who legally acquired handguns prior to the change in the law.

If you want to know what happens when a state repeals a law requiring background checks for all handguns sales, you can look to the state of Missouri. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Once again, sober analysis shows that tax cuts don’t create prosperity. A report out today looks at how states that cut personal income taxes have fared in the years that follow; the answer is, not that well. Bold promises about tax cuts are usually followed by harsh realities. Here are a few of the key results:

  • Job growth slower than the nation in 4 of the 5 largest tax cutting states in recent years. North Carolina is actually the one state that did outperform the nation since the recent tax cuts, but that means that its not the tax cuts that are doing the work. For example, Kansas passed even larger tax cuts that North Carolina did, and it has lagged behind the nation, and behind most of its neighbor states, since then.
  • Personal income grew more slowly in 4 of the 5 states that cut personal income taxes the most in the last few years. Even with anemic income growth nationally, most of the states that cut personal income taxes were sub-par performers. This includes North Carolina, where the average worker has seen the value of their wages slip further behind the national average.
  • The five states that cut taxes the most aggressively in the 1990s did worse than the rest of the country during the next economic expansion (2000-2007). Some tax cut cheerleaders say we simply need to be patient, that the good times will come, but that not what the data say. States that cut heavily in the 1990’s saw an entire economic cycle come and go without growth taking off.

Of course, none of this is a surprise to people who pay attention to history. Most rigorous studies have found that cutting state taxes has little or no effect on economic growth. Businesses are worried about a long list of costs before they consider the personal income tax rate, so its not a game changer for where they decide to invest. Likewise, people don’t suddenly decide to work harder because they stand to earn a few more cents on the dollar, particularly if they have to pay most of that back in higher sales taxes, worse schools, or deteriorating roads. Cutting personal income taxes in not a magic elixir, but expecting it to cause an economic boom is magical thinking.

Commentary

In case you missed it, be sure to check out today’s edition of the Fitzsimon File wherein Chris explains what’s really going on in the latest House budget proposal — part of which was unveiled today after having been written behind closed doors. As Chris notes in “A muddled start to the state budget dance”:

“Overall the parts of the budget made public so far are similar to proposals made by Governor Pat McCrory two months ago in his spending plan with the anemic status quo preserved in most agencies and programs, maintaining funding levels that after several years of deep budget cuts fail to meet the needs of a growing and still struggling state.

House leaders will tout increased funding for education but with a few notable exceptions like more funding for textbooks and restoring support for driver’s ed, most of the new education money will pay to keep services at current levels—funding enrollment increases and keeping the same number of teacher assistants in the classroom after their ranks were reduced significantly in the last few years.

It is much the same in health and human services where House leaders pay for the increased cost of Medicaid and provide some additional funding for programs that desperately need it, like the Home and Community Care Block that helps pay for Meals on Wheels and other services that allow seniors to stay in their homes.

The House budget restores a million dollar cut made to the program last year and while that’s certainly welcome news, bringing a vital program back to a previous level of funding isn’t exactly a cause for massive celebration.”

And sadly, as Chris also notes, this is probably the high point of this year’s budget process: Read More

News

House lawmakers unveiled their 2015-17 biennial budget Thursday morning—and education proposals were longer on policy pitches than big figure changes, including measures that would affect student assessment & classroom staffing models as well as seven different pilot programs aimed at teacher preparation, workforce development and remediation, among other ideas.

The budget also did not include a much anticipated announcement on teacher pay — that’s to come at the beginning of next week.

Read on for a list of highlights.

K-12 House Budget

School vouchers: Provided the Supreme Court allows the Opportunity Scholarships program to proceed, which provides students with state funds to attend private schools, House lawmakers propose a $6.8 million increase for 2015-16—bringing the annual cost of program to $17.6 million

Disability vouchers: Students with disabilities would be able to use up to $8,000 state funds annually to attend private schools—that’s up from $6,000 annually in prior years. Families could also get tuition funds up front versus having to wait for reimbursement.

Teacher assistants: Lawmakers added $88.9 million compared to the base each year — but the move is just to backfill the loss in lottery receipts and other nonrecurring funds. So the takeaway is that there’s no real change here–funding levels remain the same as ’14-15.

Textbooks & digital resources: $50 million (for textbooks) compared to the base each year, with a cumulative increase during the biennium of $100 million. Textbook funding has been obliterated in recent years. Read More

Commentary

budgetThere were a lot of things that the Democrats did wrong while they were running the North Carolina General Assembly back in the day– especially in the state Senate — and many of them were highlighted at the time on this website. That said, the “process” now in use on Jones Street has degenerated since then to the point at which it truly makes a mockery of democratic governance.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the the development of the single most important bill that the General Assembly passes each year — the state budget. Here’s how this absurd process has worked in 2015:

Two months ago, the Governor proposed a budget. After that, the various Appropriations subcommittees held a few meetings to review what the Governor had proposed.

That’s it. There’s been no public discussion or hearings on developing or exploring alternatives. There’s been no public debate or amendments and certainly no public give and take.

Now, this morning, almost four months into the 2015 legislative session and just 45 days before the end of the fiscal year, the House released a new version of the budget (really just parts of the budget — we still don’t know about taxes and employee raises) broken into a handful of separate proposals. Naturally, there’s been no time for legislators, the news media or the public to digest the contents. The proposals were all brought before hastily called and simultaneous subcommittee meetings this morning — which effectively prohibited any one individual from reviewing any more than one or two small corners of the proposal.

At the meetings, legislators were told they’d have till noon to develop any amendments and were given a long list of 11 onerous rules Read More