Commentary

McCrory’s teacher pay proposal fails on retention goals

In honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought I’d focus my first blog post on the most obvious way North Carolina shows its appreciation (or lack thereof) for teachers:  the North Carolina teacher salary schedule.  In particular, let’s take a closer look at Governor McCrory’s 2016-17 Proposed Teacher Salary Schedule.

On the positive side, the McCrory administration has been refreshingly honest in its description of this salary proposal, touting it as an average pay increase of 5%. While McCrory proposes providing a number of one-time bonuses to teachers in FY 2016-17, the dollars for these bonuses are not included in the 5% figure. While not all teachers would receive a salary increase under the governor’s plan, the average teacher would indeed receive a recurring salary increase of 5%.

Also, a 5% salary increase is decent.  Of course, a 5% salary increase is insufficient to bring teacher salaries to the national average, or to equal the inflation-adjusted average salaries of years’ past. However, if North Carolina made a sustained effort to increase teacher salaries 5% per year every year, rather than just in election years, North Carolina’s teacher salaries would eventually surpass the national average (though it would likely take nearly ten years).

Within McCrory’s teacher salary schedule there are faults, however.  Read more

Commentary

The truth about the Governor’s proposed “Medicaid expansion”

Medicaid expansionThere’s been a lot of talk of late emanating from the McCrory administration about “expanding Medicaid.” Unfortunately, a close look at the fine print makes clear that the minor proposed “expansion” has absolutely nothing to do with closing the state’s massive Medicaid coverage gap that has resulted from our failure to expand the program under the terms of the Affordable Care Act.

Both the North Carolina Medicaid and NC Health Choice Draft Section 1115 Waiver application written by the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and included in the Governor’s 2016-2017 proposed budget presentation use the word, “expansion,” freely. Unfortunately, neither the Governor nor DHHS have committed to closing the coverage gap or truly expanding Medicaid so that nearly one-half million North Carolinians can have access to health services. To be clear, closing the coverage gap means extending health coverage to individuals at or below 138 percent federal poverty level, which is an annual income of $16,394 for an individual and $33,534 for a family of four in 2016.

The 1115 waiver is for Medicaid “reform,” NOT Medicaid expansion. As you may recall, DHHS and the General Assembly want to transform our current nationally recognized primary case management system to managed care, where both commercial insurers and “provider led entities” would administer Medicaid services.

The waiver proposal reports that North Carolina will embark upon a tiny “expansion” of Medicaid whereby parents whose children enter the foster care system can access health care services in order to strengthen family stability. Unfortunately, this “expansion” is only for parents who already meet income eligibility for Medicaid when their children are in the home. Currently, once their children are removed from the home, parents previously enrolled lose their benefits. In other words, while welcome, all the proposed change does is alter a minor, extremely illogical rule.

What’s more, Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center, Raising the Bar 2016

North Carolina’s older population and the need for state action growing

This post is part of a series on the state budget featuring the voices of North Carolina experts on what our state needs to progress so that all North Carolinians have a fair shot to get ahead.

By Mary Bethel – President, NC Coalition on Aging

raise the barThe Baby Boomers Are Here!  North Carolina is experiencing a significant increase in our older population as the state’s 2.4 million baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) have begun to enter the retirement age.  Today, 1 in 5 – over 2 million people – are age 60 and over and there are 170,000 people age 85+ living in the state.  By 2018, the state as a whole, and 90 of the 100 counties, will have more population 60 and over than age 0-17.

With this growth in the number of older adults comes an increased need for legislative action to help those who need assistance.  Many aging advocacy groups in the state, including the NC Coalition on Aging, a statewide alliance composed of agencies; organizations, groups and supporting individuals concerned with issues impacting older North Carolinians (www.nccoalitiononaging.org); are asking the General Assembly to appropriate funding for two priority areas. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center, Raising the Bar 2016

Promoting opportunity for children and their families in the state budget

This post is part of a series on the state budget featuring the voices of North Carolina experts on what our state needs to progress so that all North Carolinians have a fair shot to get ahead. 

By Michelle raise the barHughes, Executive Director, NC Child

What do North Carolina’s children need in order to get a solid start in life, and what priority should children have in the annual legislative competition for state funds? Child advocates like us are pressed every year to tell the legislature what we think is most important for our state’s 2.3 million children to grow into thriving, successful adults.  And every year we make the case for a range of effective, research-based policy solutions in health care, early childhood education, child care and child safety.

But after 30 years of working to make North Carolina the best place to be a child and to raise a child, we can say this without reservation: our children will most surely thrive when we support the families and the communities in which they live.   We cannot separate the fate of our state’s children from the reality of their parents’ lives, the condition of their neighborhoods, and the opportunities available or missing in their communities.

Unfortunately, many children in North Carolina are growing up in families living on the brink and in communities facing deep and persistent barriers to success and prosperity.  These families live in small towns and rural areas, but also in suburbs and city neighborhoods. They are striving to make ends meet, but low-wage jobs with few benefits are often the only ones available to them. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center, Raising the Bar 2016

Reinvestment should be top priority for lawmakers during the Short Session

This blog post raise the baris the first post in our week-long 2016 Raise the Bar blog series that will recap the state of the North Carolina budget and make the case for reinvestment so that all North Carolinians have a fair shot to get ahead.

Next Tuesday, state lawmakers will return to Jones Street for the start of the Short Session. The primary focus of the session will be to make adjustments to the second year of the two-year budget that lawmakers approved last year. That means that lawmakers have an opportunity to strengthen economic security for all North Carolinians and help build a more robust economic recovery.

Seizing that opportunity, however, will require lawmakers to refocus on evidence-based fiscal policies that are smart, targeted, and equitable—rather than policies that lead them further down the tax-cut and tax-swap paths that they’ve pursued. As a reminder, state lawmakers once again chose last year to cut taxes that primarily benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations, while also expanding the sales tax to new services like maintenance, repair, and installation, effectively further shifting the tax load onto middle- and low-income taxpayers.

Those tax decisions are closing the doors of opportunity for some North Carolinians and won’t fix what is wrong with our state’s economy (like too few jobs and a boom in low-wage work). The tax plans since 2013 will reduce revenue by more than $2 billion annually when fully implemented, cutting off pathways to greater economic success like early childhood development, public schools, affordable health care, supports for older adults, and community economic development while also failing to boost the economy or create the jobs North Carolina needs.

Below are four key points about the current state budget that would be good for lawmakers to reflect upon as they head into the new budget season. Read more