Budget and Tax Center economist Patrick McHugh is out with a powerful new report entitled “Growth Without Prosperity: Seven years After the Great Recession Started, Recovery Still Eludes North Carolina.” This is from the release that accompanied the report:

The worst of the Great Recession is behind us, but the damage lingers, weighing down communities and families across North Carolina. We are now seven years removed from the financial crisis of 2008, but in North Carolina wages are down, job creation is lagging, and many communities are still stuck in recession.

Given all of the positive headlines lately, it’s easy to get the impression that the recovery is in full swing. Last year was the best since the financial crisis, with North Carolina and the nation finally getting back to the number of jobs that existed before the recession. The unemployment rate has also been dropping since the bottom of the Great Recession in 2009. However, these positive trends do not tell the whole story, particularly in North Carolina.

There are still not enough jobs for everyone who wants to work in North Carolina, but that’s far from the only problem. Simply put, North Carolina’s economy is not working for everyone:

Growth without prosperity: Economic output has rebounded nicely since the worst days of the recession, but it is not translating into larger paychecks for many North Carolinians. Adjusting for inflation, gross state product—which measures the value of all goods and services sold—is up 18.5% compared to 2007, but wages are actually down slightly. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center

Senate Bill 20 passed another hurdle this morning, moving out of House Finance and to the floor for a full vote.  As I recently highlighted, state lawmakers are pursing tax changes that would further shift responsibility for paying for public investments and services to low- and middle-income taxpayers and away from the wealthy and profitable corporations.

Senate Bill 20 includes a provision that would no longer allow taxpayers to deduct expenses for tuition and related expenses such as course-related books, supplies, and equipment. The federal tax code includes this deduction, but state lawmakers are proposing that the deduction be done away with.

Eliminating this deduction would come at a time when North Carolina students and families have seen a steady increase in the cost of a college education. And this trend will likely continue, as another round of tuition increases look to be on the horizon for students attending public universities in the state. Meanwhile, state funding for need-based financial aid has not increased in recent years, meaning students likely have to incur increasing amounts of student loan debt. Read More


North Carolina needs serious policy solutions that create real jobs, but if the new economic development legislation unveiled yesterday is the route the state is going, it looks like jobless workers are going to be kept waiting awhile.

After weeks of closed-door negotiations, the House unveiled the NC Competes Act (HB 117), legislation which included a provision doubling the amount of money the state could spend on the state’s primary business incentive program, the Job Development Investment Grant and renaming it the Job Growth Reimbursement Opportunities People Program. This program provides public dollars to “incentivize” private sector firms to create jobs and increase capital investment.

Unfortunately, the program has not always delivered on its promises, and until it is fixed, it is unlikely that spending more money on it will improve its effectiveness in creating jobs.

Read More


srs-unemployment3While it is positive news that fewer North Carolinians were unemployed in 2014 than in 2013, the reality is that we are still far from pre-recession employment rates.

As the Budget and Tax Center pointed out a in a release today:

Despite the decline in metro area unemployment year over year, there were still more unemployed North Carolinians in nearly all metro areas in December 2014 than there were in December 2007.

The latest data from the BTC’s County Labor Market Watch and Recession Watch shows that:

Many counties were better off in December 2007 than December 2014. There are still 24 North Carolina counties with unemployment rates higher than what they had in December 2007. There are 60 counties that had more unemployed workers in December 2014 than they did in December 2007, and 72 counties had fewer people in the labor force this past December than in December 2007.

Based on the data, slightly over half of North Carolina counties have an unemployment rate that is higher than the statewide 5.5 percent unemployment rate. Graham County at 12.3 percent has the highest unemployment rate in the state. These numbers are evidence that while the employment situation is improving in some counties, others are clearly not getting the help they need to recover from the recession.

“Any approach to badly needed economic development must consider this uneven recovery,” said Alexandra Forter Sirota, director of the BTC. “Lawmakers must pursue tools that deliver targeted support to grow opportunity in communities that continue to struggle now seven years after the start of the Great Recession.”

NC Budget and Tax Center

A new paper by UC Berkeley economist Danny Yagan provides further evidence that tax breaks that largely benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations are not a remedy for boosting the economy. In 2003, President George W. Bush passed one of the largest cuts ever to a federal capital tax rate – reducing the top tax rate on dividends to 15 percent from 38.6 percent. Using federal IRS data on corporate tax returns, Yagan compared corporations that benefited from this tax cut (C-corporations) to firms that didn’t benefit from the tax cut (S-corporations).

Corporations that got a massive dividend tax cut didn’t make any different choices about things that boost the real economy, the new paper highlights. The massive reduction to the federal dividend tax rate resulted in no meaningful change in corporate investment, net investment, or employee compensation for corporations. What did change following the huge dividend tax cut was an increase in payout to corporate shareholders. Simply put, the tax cut benefited corporate shareholders but not the overall economy.

Some lawmakers and outside groups in North Carolina are pushing to eliminate capital gains from state taxes. Governor McCrory recently announced his desire to eliminate the state’s capital gains tax for what he deems “innovation-related companies”. Either proposal to cut capital gains taxes would overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy at the expense of everyone else in the state, a recently released BTC report highlights. Proponents often claim that eliminating or reducing the capital gains tax rate will increase investment and help boost the economy. However, no apparent cause-and-effect relationship exists between changes in the top capital gains tax rate and savings, investment, or productivity growth. Instead, various analyses highlight how cutting capital gains tax rates have concentrated income at the very top. There is simply no reason to expect this reality to somehow be any different in North Carolina.

Bigger tax breaks for the rich while the state is cutting support for schools and other essential job-creation tools is not a path that promotes economic opportunity and prosperity for all North Carolinians. This new paper serves as yet more evidence that state lawmakers should reject calls to eliminate or cut capital gains taxes and instead work to make sure the wealthiest North Carolinians and profitable corporations pay their fair share.