Gene NicholWhen it comes to eloquently assailing North Carolina’s far right political leadership for its shortsighted and mean-spirited policies, no one does it better than Gene Nichol. The UNC law professor is on his game this morning with an op-ed in Raleigh’s News & Observer entitled “An NC tax plan that’s an exercise in villainy.”

As Nichol notes, the decision to further shift the responsibility for funding government from the rich to the poor by raising sales taxes and cutting income taxes is as blatant as it is outrageous.

This section stands out in particular:

“I’ll be the first to concede that the governor and the General Assembly mean to do a lot. They want to make it harder for black people to vote. They want to stop women from controlling their bodies. They want to shame and stigmatize lesbians and gay men. They want to disparage and marginalize immigrants. They want to dismantle the public schools. They want to eliminate environmental regulation. They want to foster purchased elections. They want to lay low their political opponents. The list is long. They’re ambitious sorts.

But their true sweet spot, their principal raison d’etre, the campaign to which they return enthusiastically in each succeeding session, is taking money and benefits from the impoverished in order to give more to, and to demand less from, the wealthy. They seemingly believe the main thing wrong with North Carolina is that those at the bottom have too much and those at the top don’t have enough. They have converted our government to an exercise in villainy….

And this part too:

The McCrory era will be adjudged a dark and shameful chapter in North Carolina history – a last gasp effort to cling to legacies of privilege and subordination, to deny the promises of democracy and dignity.”

Click here to read the entire essay.


Tax shiftThe lead editorial in this morning’s Charlotte Observer offers a compelling explanation and critique of yesterday’s “April surprise” in which state leaders announced that North Carolina has eked out a 2% budget surplus. The bottom line explanation: the Great Tax Shift in which average folks are paying more and the rich and corporations are paying less. Here’s the Observer:

“News of a surplus is indeed cause for relief. But before GOP leaders dislocate their elbows in over-exuberant back patting, let’s look closer to see how they achieved it….

The returns are in. And the numbers don’t point to an expanding economy as the main cause of the huge swing from deficit projections to surplus. Instead, the memo [from the legislature’s Fiscal Research Division] noted that tax refunds dropped by 57 percent this year (not the 35 percent predicted). It was by far the biggest drop-off in 25 years.

Personal income tax collections surged, giving the state $375 million more than the staff expected. Some of that came from bigger collections in small business income. No surprise there, since tax reform killed the $50,000 business income exemption such establishments enjoyed.”

GOP leaders say lower tax rates will draw more corporations and jobs to the state. But the new-found surplus didn’t come from new-found corporations. Wage growth is expected to be 1 percentage point below forecast for the current budget year, the memo says, and withholding tax revenue is projected at 3 percentage points below forecast. Corporate income tax and franchise taxes moved up only slightly since the staff’s February budget projections.

That means surging collections from small businesses and individual taxpayers – not corporations – turned the deficit forecast into a surplus.”

The editorial closes this way:

“GOP leaders say refunds are shrinking because they made paycheck withholding more accurate. The state’s keeping less of your money through the year. Even if true, that doesn’t change the bottom line fact that personal income tax revenue has surged.

Make no mistake. We do believe the state needs more money for schools and other public investments. But its leaders are lifting money from everyday taxpayers’ pockets while seeking praise for supposedly putting more money in them.

And for that sleight of hand, perhaps they do deserve a round of applause.

A sarcastic one.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.


The warped ideological prism through which the leaders of the North Carolina Senate view reality continues to give rise to new and maddeningly counterproductive policy proposals. The latest came yesterday afternoon when, fresh off of wrecking the state revenue picture for years and handicapping core services like education, the courts and environmental protection with the regressive 2013 tax package, senators proposed another round of corporate tax cuts.

As Alexandra Sirota of the Budget and Tax Center explained it rather politely last night, this is the absolute last thing North Carolina needs right now:

“The corporate tax cuts in the Senate’s proposal would further reduce revenue for investments in our public schools and universities and other building blocks that help drive the success of businesses. Businesses need an educated workforce and modern infrastructure to be successful. Cuts to the tax rates for profitable corporations or changes to the way corporate income is considered for purposes of taxation also won’t address falling wages for the average North Carolinian. Furthermore, the Senate proposal changes to taxes paid by profitable multi-state corporations would not guarantee reinvest in our state and be at the expense of small, home-grown North Carolina businesses.”

In other (and less gracious words), the Senate’s unrequited love affair with trickledown economics continues and will, if unchecked, continue to spur North Carolina’s ongoing and destructive spiral back down into the realm of its backward neighbors like Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.



Thom TillisNorth Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis headlined a press event at the General Assembly this morning that was supposed to be about kicking off the 2014 legislative session but that, at times, felt a lot like a part of Tillis’ U.S. Senate campaign.

There will plenty of time for dissecting the details of what was said at the event, but there was at least one familiar conservative talking point repeated by Tillis that deserves to be debunked immediately and often.

Namely, it is utterly absurd for legislative conservatives (or anyone else for that matter) to argue — as the Speaker did at at least one point — that Democrats imposed more significant cuts on state services (like public education) back in 2009 and 2010 than have been imposed since the GOP assumed control of the General Assembly  in 2011 and the Governor’s mansion in 2013. This is like blaming FDR for the plunge in federal spending during the Great Depression.

Earth to Speaker Tillis: Yes there were large and problematic state budget cuts in 2009 and 2010, but that’s mostly because state revenues had literally dropped like an anvil as a result of the global Great Recession. Read More


ff-8292013It’s depressing as hell, but everyone who cares about North Carolina public policy should make this new report by the N.C. Budget and Tax Center’s Cedric Johnson: “Who Pays in 2014” a part of their Tax Day reading list.

As Johnson reports:

“Changes are coming to who pays taxes in North Carolina, and the news is not good for middle- and low-income taxpayers. This tax season marks the final year taxpayers will file their income taxes under the state’s old tax code and by next year it will be apparent to many taxpayers that the tax plan has not just reduced available dollars for investing in core public services, but also has increased the tax load for many. Read More