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Much has been written about the impact of this year’s state budget on K-12, but for a third year in a row, the university system suffered the deepest cuts of the three branches of North Carolina’s education system.

The UNC-system saw its bottom line slashed by nearly $66 million for 2013-14 under the new state spending plan.

NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson says previous budget cuts resulted in larger class sizes and fewer class-sections.  This round of cuts will be even more difficult to achieve:

“Faculty, their workload, is already very high. And in fact they are doing a lot of administrative work they used to not have to do , because we have lost so many administrative positions,” explained Chancellor Woodson. “We’re going to step back from this and really think about the next phases of reorganization to help us adjust the university to what we think is the new norm in terms of state commitment to funding.”

Woodson appeared last weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the impact on higher education. To hear the full segment, visit the Radio Interview section of the NC Policy Watch website where you can listen online or download a podcast. For an excerpt from that interview, click below:
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It is true that the final budget reinvests in some programs and services to achieve an overall slight increase in General Fund appropriations. This reinvestment was made possible by using unspent dollars from last year’s budget, budget gimmicks, the reliance on tuition increases and fees, as well as reductions in other areas of the budget. However, state investments in most areas of the budget—including education—are failing to keep up after years of budget cuts.

There are two primary vantage points for analyzing the final budget and making comparisons over time.  One method is to measure the final budget against the actual dollars that were appropriated last year in the 2013 budget.  The other method measures the final budget against the continuation—or base—budget, which reflects the dollars needed in the next year to maintain current service levels.  The Governor’s Office of State Budget and Management, which is headed by Art Pope, collaborates with the various departments and agencies to determine the continuation requirements.

So, which vantage point makes for the best comparison? Read More

Yesterday evening, legislators released a $20.6 billion budget compromise that will likely to be voted upon and sent to the Governor’s desk for final approval later this week. This budget shorts investments in vital public services, and fails to catch up and keep up with the needs of a growing North Carolina population across major service areas (see the chart below). Some of the budget cuts could have been avoided had lawmakers decided not to drain available revenues by $524 million over the next two years through an ill-advised series of tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations.

As the Director of the NC Budget and Tax Center asserted in her statement, “This revenue loss isn’t just a number on a piece of paper—it means fewer teachers in more crowded classrooms, higher tuition rates and elevated debt load for families, scarcer economic development opportunities for distressed communities, and longer waiting lists for senior services.”

Final_falling behind

Here is a short list of noteworthy items in the major budget areas:

Read More

When making important decisions, people have a right to the best possible information. Facts, not ideology, should drive our policy agendas. This is especially true on budget and tax issues, which affect everyone in North Carolina.

Unfortunately, John Hood’s recent column on the NC General Assembly’s tax changes is replete with bad information. Warning: some wonky details follow.

The Budget & Tax Center uses rigorous methods and accurate modeling strategies that are endorsed and used throughout the economic forecasting industry – including by conservative and centrist groups.

Here’s the thing about making tax changes: there will always be winners and losers.  That’s why it takes careful thought, engagement of a diverse set of stakeholders and consideration of a range of data points and methods. Efforts to establish a reasonable estimate of what will happen as a result of the plan will always be estimates, but policymakers should have the best information available to them as to the direction and magnitude of the impact of their decision.

In the current tax debate, policymakers had two separate types of analysis at their disposal.

  • The sample taxpayer scenarios developed by the state’s Fiscal Research Division. This gives examples of how particular taxpayers will fare under tax changes.  These can be fine tools, but are inherently limited. They pick out particular taxpayers and can’t show you that everyone – or even most people — will have the same experience. The results can’t be extended to everyone in particular filing types, and certainly not­­ to the population at large.

Using this tool alone, as tax plan backers did, is like trying to fix your car using only a screwdriver. Yet even using this limited tool shows that proponents’ claims that everyone will benefit from tax changes is flatly false. That’s right, according to non-partisan Fiscal Research, and even according to the conservative Tax Foundation, there will be taxpayers who pay more under the tax plan.

  • The other type of tool that policymakers could use was an economic incidence model, like the kind that the Joint Committee on Taxation uses, that has been developed by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. The Budget & Tax Center used this model to provide population-level estimates of the impact of tax changes. This is a far better tool than the limited sample scenarios, since it provides an overall summary of the experience of all taxpayers.

Analysis showed that the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers would experience a tax increase on average.  The findings take into account the rough swap of electricity and natural gas from the gross receipts franchise tax to the sales tax, as well as the privilege tax changes for amusements. The findings take into account a household’s total income in order to reflect ability to pay the tax.  The findings also take into account the base broadening of the sales tax.

The model is consistent with real-world experience. First, consumers will pay more indirectly because of changes businesses make to their prices to accommodate for the sales tax changes. The Council on State Taxation — not a group one would call a bastion of progressive views — finds that 40 percent of total sales tax collections are paid by businesses. Second, multi-state, profitable businesses — the bulk of corporate income taxpayers — are going to pass their tax cut on to shareholders, not workers. Those shareholders are very unlikely to all be North Carolinians, meaning that money will flow out of our state.

Record corporate profits have not translated into higher wages for the past thirty years, so why would we assume that a corporate income tax cut is going to all of a sudden give corporations a change of heart and decide to boost their workers’ wages?

In desperation, proponents often turn to the argument that this is going to create jobs.  But not only is there no economic consensus that this is a good strategy for growth, states that have tried it have not seen the promised employment expansion – though they have seen high incidence of poverty. We can’t import the oil production capacity of Texas or the coal mines of Tennessee, so why should we import their model that drives poverty through the roof?

When we juxtapose these two decisions — huge tax cuts for the wealthy versus a “just wait, it’ll all work out” message for working families – we can see the human cost of a serious policy mistake. Pretending that economic evidence supports these choices just compounds that serious mistake.

 

 

Members of the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad sent a letter (LWV letter) to Gov. Pat McCrory to dispute his characterization of Moral Monday protesters as “outside agitators.” In fact, “pillars of their community” is a more apt description of the LWVPT. Below is their letter:

June 19, 2013

Dear Governor McCrory:

We are concerned that you and the members of the General Assembly are assuming that the Moral Monday participants are from outside North Carolina and that we are simply agitators. We are neither.

We are members of the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad (LWVPT), a nonpartisan organization with 165 members. We reside in the heart of North Carolina, and we are participants in Moral Mondays. We are thoughtful, intelligent women and men, many with advanced degrees, and all with a wide range of knowledge, business skills, professional abilities, and vast experience as community volunteers. Read More