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NC House and Senate members spending their first full week back in their home districts will undoubtedly be talking up tax reform and efforts to spur economic growth over the seven-month session. But even as lawmakers tout their business-friendly agenda, Ran Coble with the NC Center for Public Policy Research says they will need to own up to another round of cuts made to public education:

“From the public schools you are taking almost 4,000 teaching assistants. There’s no raise for teachers,” explained Coble. “You’ve got cuts to the Department of Public Instruction, cuts to things that get people into the teaching profession, which I worry about long-term.”

Coble, who appeared on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon last weekend, notes the latest budget also cuts the UNC-system by another $66 million. While the community college system fared better, its students will see a $2.50 per credit hour increase in tuition.

To hear Coble’s take on the winners and losers of this legislative session, visit the Radio Interview section of the NC Policy Watch website where you can listen online or download a podcast of the extended interview.

For a closer look at the numbers from this legislative session, be sure to read Monday’s Fitzsimon File.

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On Friday of last week, the good people at Together NC delivered an open letter to Gov. McCrory, House Speaker Tillis, Senate President Pro Tem Berger and the other members of the General Assembly regarding the ongoing behind-closed-doors negotiations over the state budget. Here’s the opening:

“We are more than 100 North Carolina groups and thousands more North Carolinians who want to make North Carolina a better place. We aren’t a national organization and we don’t have significant resources to secure your vote; but what we do have is a commitment to our state and a belief that North Carolina can be the best place in the country to live, work and do business if we invest in our schools and communities.

As you negotiate a tax and budget plan this weekend, we urge you to reject the current proposals – they are bad for North Carolinians and bad for our economy. North Carolinians are proud of our state’s long tradition of coming together to invest in families, communities, and our state’s future. That’s why the people of North Carolina have asked for your leadership in identifying solutions to the state’s economic challenges that don’t undermine our neighborhood schools, world-class universities, and safe communities.

Cutting taxes for the rich and profitable corporations is not a job creation strategy and it won’t address our economic challenges. Instead we should be focusing on investments to support emerging research and technology, strengthen new industries, and train and educate our children and workforce for the jobs of the future….

Read the entire letter by clicking here.

On the Senate Tax Plan receiving tentative approval:

The Senate tax plan will give tax cuts to the wealthy and profitable corporations while everyone else pays the price.

The loss of revenue for public education, the health and well-being of seniors and children, and our communities will harm everyday North Carolinians and the economy’s long-term health. Some North Carolinians will even experience income tax increases, including some seniors and families.

North Carolinians want a tax plan that won’t risk the things that have made our state great, especially not on a strategy that has been a proven failure in other states.

On the House Budget passing third reading:

Unfortunately the House is following path similar as the Senate by writing a budget that prioritizes tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthiest instead of adequately funding our vital public investments. Our children, seniors and everyday families will suffer under this approach, and it will hurt our economy. We need an educated and trained workforce for a 21st century economy, and underfunding our public school system, community colleges, and universities takes us in the wrong direction.

 

The tax plan that North Carolina’s Senate leaders unveiled yesterday should not be mistaken for tax reform. It is, in reality, a plan to gut North Carolina’s schools, public colleges and universities, infrastructure, and other key state investments that promote long-run prosperity.

The plan’s massive tax cuts, which would mainly benefit large corporations and the wealthy, would cost the state $1.3 billion each year once fully in place, roughly the entire annual budget for North Carolina’s community colleges. Blowing such a massive hole in the budget would jeopardize the quality public schools, nationally-recognized public university system, and other assets that have attracted businesses — and jobs — to the state in industries like financial services and scientific research.

Other states that considered similar proposals this year backed off in part because of the reality that huge tax cuts for the wealthy must be paid for with untenable reductions in funding for schools and other state services, tax hikes on others, or both. The North Carolina Senate’s plan ignores that reality and opts instead for wishful thinking.

Claims that the Senate plan will cause North Carolina’s economy to boom are simply empty promises. Any boost from cutting income taxes will be canceled out by the spending cuts or tax increases the state will be forced to adopt to balance its budget.

Elimination of the corporate income tax is largely a giveaway to multistate corporations that — rather than creating jobs — will likely stick the savings in an out-of-state bank or use it to pay higher dividends to stockholders, most of whom don’t live in North Carolina.

The plan’s personal income tax cuts won’t likely create jobs, either. Most small businesses would get a tax cut so small that it wouldn’t even cover one worker’s salary. Plus, small businesses rely on state education, roads, and other services that would degrade year after year under this plan.

To ensure a bright economic future, North Carolina should focus on strengthening the K-12 and higher education systems that have set the state apart in the past but faced deep cuts in recent years due to the recession. Blowing a huge hole in the state budget would make that crucial task much harder. North Carolina has nothing to gain and much to lose from the Senate’s misguided plan.

Funding for teachers, textbooks and school buses are just some of the areas that Senate lawmakers are choosing to cut from public education in North Carolina, according to the Senate budget proposal submitted Sunday night.

SB 402, the Appropriations Act of 2013, would appropriate $7,849,691,842 for 2013-14 and $8,032,588,328 for 2014-15.

While these amounts reflect an increase over what is currently spent on public education, they fall short of what would be necessary to fund current levels of programming. The budget would appropriate roughly $135 million less than what is necessary to provide current services in 2013-14 and $79 million less in 2014-15. The Senate budget also includes more than $700 million in tax cuts.

These cuts come on top of the previous biennium’s $1 billion in spending reductions to public education.

The Senate proposal does eliminate the $376 million “LEA adjustment,” also known as discretionary cuts, which require school districts to make hard funding decisions and then send money back to the state. However, that elimination is substantially offset by more specific cuts to classroom teacher allotments, instructional support personnel and instructional supplies. Those cuts amount to $310,342,910 for 2013-14 and $270,456,519 for 2014-15.

Student-teacher funding ratios go up from kindergarten through 12th grade as a result, and the cuts to instructional supplies are in addition to massive cuts to textbooks and supplies over the past several years.

Other reductions in spending include:

  • Teacher assistants: cuts total $142,329,582 in 2013-14 and $149,188,180 in 2014-15, amounting to 6,800 lost teaching assistant positions in 2013-14 and 7,100 lost positions in 2014-15
  • Pre-kindergarten: cuts 2,500 slots in 2013-14 and 5,000 slots in 2014-15 in addition to the 5,000 slots that will be lost due to the expiration of Governor Perdue’s executive order, totaling 17,500 lost Pre-K slots over two years.
  • School bus replacement: changes current policy to require school buses to be replaced after 250,000 miles of service, instead of 200,000 miles. Funding is cut 42% this year, on top of huge cuts in the 2011 budget.
  • Funding for limited English proficiency (LEP) students: reduced by $6,000,000.
  • Average salaries for certified personnel: cut by $11,873,083 because actual salaries are less than projected. The reason? Mass exodus of experienced teachers.

Credit for analysis of the Senate budget proposal goes to the Matt Ellinwood, policy analyst for the N.C. Justice Center’s Education and Law project.