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A recent Washington Post story confirms once more that the anti-taxes, anti-government policies of the conservative leaders running Kansas continue to backfire.

“Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal last month to tout the success of his economic program, particularly several rounds of income tax cuts amounting to the largest in the state’s history. ‘We supported small business by taking away all income taxes on small businesses,’ Brownback wrote, ‘allowing them to reinvest in their businesses, creating jobs and growth. … By giving these companies more money to reinvest in their businesses, we are enabling them to hire more people and invest in needed equipment.’

The only problem? That job growth hasn’t exactly materialized. In fact, as Josh Barro notes in a must-read over at The Upshot today, job growth in Kansas has actually lagged behind the U.S. average, especially in the years following the first round of Brownback tax cuts in 2012.

As the story also notes, the latest finding echo those of a March report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities which found that: Read More

Gov. McCrory’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 and respective budgets by the House and Senate include significant cost savings from closing and downsizing various correctional facilities. Savings from these changes total around $14.2 million in both the House and Senate budgets and $14.9 million in the Governor’s budget.

Savings generated from these changes could have been used to promote safer communities across the state.  However, lawmakers went down a different path. For instance, Gov. McCrory advocated for state funding for drug treatment courts to be included in the state’s current fiscal year budget. These courts cost a fraction of the nearly $28,000 it cost to keep individuals in prison. However, the final budget passed last year by state policymakers did not include funding for drug treatment courts.

All three budget proposals for fiscal year 2015 – which begin July 1, 2014 – fail to include funding for drug treatment courts. The House and Senate budgets, however, go further and cut funding for programs that promote fair and equitable access to the justice system and safe communities across the state.

Funding cuts to Justice and Public Safety in the House and Senate budgets include:

  • Elimination of the Access to Civil Justice Fund, which supports the representation of poor North Carolinians in civil cases.
  • Reduction of administration funding for Indigent Defense Services, which in part oversees the provision of legal representation to indigent defendants and others entitled to counsel under North Carolina law.
  • Reduction of administration funding for Administration of the Courts

Due to tax changes enacted last year, state policymakers are constrained in major ways. This is effectively a self-imposed budget challenge. Nevertheless, as demonstrated with choices made within the Justice and Public Safety area of the budget, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Budget writers found revenue by making significant changes to the operations of various correctional facilities as well as by cutting state funding for programs that work to enhance the efficacy of the state’s justice system. These state funding cuts would limit service providers’ ability to assist individuals and families in need to legal representation.

What is clear from all three budgets is that state lawmakers are continuing down a dangerous path of more state funding cuts rather than reinvestment as the state recovers from the Great Recession. One can only hope that as budget writers work to negotiate a final budget for the upcoming 2015 fiscal year, state funding is restored for these programs that were put on the chopping block in the House and Senate budgets.

This is the 4th post of a Budget and Tax Center blog series on public services and programs that face cuts in the budget process or have been underfunded in past years. See the other posts here and here and here.

Chances are schools across North Carolina will continue to rely on outdated textbooks and limited resources for classroom supplies for the upcoming school year. The Senate budget approved last week fails to provide additional funding for these two classroom areas in the wake of dramatic state funding cuts to both textbooks and classroom instructional supplies in recent years.

Since the 2009-10 fiscal year, state funding for textbooks has been cut by 81 percent, down from $119 million when adjusted for inflation to around $23 million for the current school year. As for classroom materials and instructional supplies, state funding has been cut by nearly 47 percent since FY 2009-10, down from $90.7 million when adjusted for inflation to around $50 million for the current school year. Local schools systems have been challenged with replacing these state funding cuts with other funding sources or continuing the trend of doing more with fewer resources.

K-12 ed_Textbook & Classroom Supplies
Inadequate state funding for textbooks means the continued use of outdated textbooks, and in some cases schools have resorted to making photocopies from textbooks to ensure that students have learning materials. Diminished funding for classroom instructional materials has meant teachers having to reach into their pockets to buy supplies for classroom instruction.

The decision to not restore funding for textbooks and classroom material and supplies in the Senate budget comes on the heels of policymakers passing a tax plan last year that significantly reduces annual revenue for public investments now and in the years ahead. Policymakers now face huge revenue shortfalls for the current budget as well as for the upcoming 2014-15 fiscal year budget, which are driven by the tax plan passed last year. This foregone revenue could have help boost investments in our public schools.

As House budget writers work to put together their proposed budget, restoring funding for textbooks and classroom supplies would represent a positive step in promoting a quality education for all North Carolina students. Revenue options are available to responsibly demonstrate this commitment. Policymakers should stop the additional income tax cuts slated to go into effect January 2015. Doing so would allow for greater investments in the state’s future workforce, and in turn, the Tar Heel state as a whole.

It looks like the North Carolina Senate will ram through its version of a state budget sometime early Saturday morning under the cover of darkness. It will be an apt time for this dreadful piece of legislation. The bill was crafted in secret so it makes sense that it will be passed by the right-wing lawmakers who put it together (a few of whom may have even read it) while most of the rest of the citizenry sleeps.

But, of course, it is much more than just the way the budget bill was put together that marks it as one of the worst proposals in North Carolina history; it is the destructive substance of it. At its heart, the Senate budget is about destruction — about the latest assault in an ideologically-inspired blitzkrieg against the core public structures that knit together a middle class society. The North Carolina Senate has gone all-in with the Grover Norquist-Rush Limbaugh-Tea Party crowd that believes that government and public servies are inherently evil.

There are many descriptors that fit the Senate plan — especially the hyper-cynical proposal to steal money from everyone else in order to give teachers a raise (a raise predicated upon their surrender of the right not to be fired arbitrarily): “The Divide and Conquer Budget,” “the Blackmail Budget,” “the Extortion Budget,” “the Blood Money Budget,” “the Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Budget,” “the Art Pope-Koch Brothers Fantasy Budget.” Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue rightfully likened to Senate plan to a proposal to burn down the schoolhouse in order to give teachers the insurance money.

Whatever one calls the darned thing, though, one thing is crystal clear: Right now, all that stands between North Carolina and the prospect of being reduced to some kind of bizarre Ayn Randian lab experiment is an ambitious conservative U.S. Senate nominee and a hapless and mostly disinterested governor who has yet to show any real ability to influence the lawmaking process. Dark days, indeed.

If there was ever a time for average North Carolinians to stand up and fight back, now is that time. One good opportunity will take place next Monday at 5:00 pm on Halifax Mall when the Moral Mondays-Forward Together protesters return to the Legislative Building. Hope to see you there.

The Governor’s budget irresponsibly jeopardizes North Carolina’s future economic prospects.

There are two main reasons: it uses one-time money that won’t be there in years to come, and it makes cuts in key areas that are the building blocks of a strong economy.

Self-inflicted revenue shortfalls resulting from the tax plan enacted last year mean fewer dollars to build a strong foundation for the state’s economy and improve the lives of all North Carolinians. The Governor’s use of one-time money and cuts to key areas, like higher education and health, are shortsighted and harmful to the state’s long-term stability and growth.

The Governor should put forward a responsible plan to pay for his priorities by stopping any further tax cuts from going into effect and urging legislators to re-examine the tax decisions made last year.  Next year’s financial gap has the potential to grow even larger as the costs of personal income tax changes are felt. State policymakers would do well to plan for that impact and its potential devastating effect on families and the state’s economy.