The 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.