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NC Budget and Tax Center

This tax season marks the final year North Carolina taxpayers will file their income taxes under the state’s old tax code. By next year the increased tax load for many North Carolina taxpayers will be apparent as a result of the tax plan passed by state leaders last year.

Today, the Budget & Tax Center released a report that highlights how the tax plan passed last year shifts the responsibility of paying for public investments to middle- and low- income taxpayers while providing generous tax cuts to the wealthy and profitable corporations. The report highlights various elements of the tax plan that fundamentally changes the state’s tax system and, subsequently, who pays taxes in North Carolina.

The tax plan passed last year replaces the existing graduated personal income tax rate structure with a flat tax rate that will largely benefit wealthy taxpayers who will now pay a much lower income tax rate. A number of tax provisions that benefit middle- and low-income families – such as the personal exemption and child and dependent care credit – are eliminated under the tax plan. Read More

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GerrymanderingPolitical gerrymandering has almost always been a problem in North Carolina, but new evidence continues to emerge that when conservative politicians drew the current maps (with right-wing godfather Art Pope literally sitting at the table) they took the whole thing to new and historic depths.

If you think that’s an overstatement check out this morning’s “Monday Numbers” from Chris Fitzsimon over on the main Policy Watch page in which Chris highlights some the most amazing facts in a new WRAL.com story entitled “Many state legislative races all but over before contests begin”:

50—-number of seats in the North Carolina Senate (N.C. General Assembly)

21—number of seats in the Senate where the winner of the Republican or Democratic primary will face no opposition in the general election in November  (Many state legislative races all but over before contests begin,” WRAL-TV, March 1, 2014)

120—number of seats in the North Carolina House (N.C. General Assembly)

57—number of seats in the House where the winner of the Republican or Democratic primary will face no opposition from the other party in the general election in November (Many state legislative races all but over before contests begin,” WRAL-TV, March 1, 2014)

Read all of the remarkable Monday Numbers by clicking here.

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Former state lawmaker Stephen LaRoque will get another chance to convince an Eastern North Carolina jury he did not steal $300,000 from a federally-funded economic development group he ran.

Federal agents believe he used the money for personal extravagances like replica Faberge decorative eggs and an ice skating rink.

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, was convicted in June on a dozen theft and money laundering charges fraud  related to the accusations, but Greenville television station WNCT reported that Senior U.S. District Court Judge Malcolm Howard ruled in court today that LaRoque could have a new trial.

Howard allowed for a new trial after a juror admitted conducting Internet research on IRS tax rules during the course of last year’s criminal trial, a violation of court rules that require jurors to only consider evidence heard in a courtroom.

No trial date has been set.

WNCT
LaRoque has maintained he committed no crimes, and told jurors when he testified in last spring’s trial that he did not keep detailed business records and that all the money he was accused of stealing was owed to him.

Howard will also hold another hearing in LaRoque’s case next Tuesday, and will decide whether to approve the former lawmaker’s request to hire  Greenville attorney Keith Williams after a “fundamental disagreement” emerged between LaRoque and Raleigh criminal defense attorney Joe Cheshire about how to proceed in the case.

LaRoque is also looking to lift a hold by federal authorities on property he inherited in order to pay legal bills.

From the late 1990s until his 2012 indictment, LaRoque ran both East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company, two groups funded as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that gives business loans to struggling small businesses in impoverished rural areas.

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A for-profit online education company will be at the legislature tomorrow to give a pitch to lawmakers about the virtual public charter schools it runs, and profits from, in more than 30 other states.

An executive from K12, Inc., a Wall Street-traded company that gets the bulk of its revenue from running online public schools, is slated to make a presentation Tueaday at the Joint Legislative Education Oversight committee. The hearing begins at 10 am. Tuesday in room 643 of the Legislative Office Buildling.

(Steaming audio of the meeting will be available here, and a copy of the commitee’s agenda is here.)

Mary Gifford, the company’s senior vice-president for education policy scheduled to speak to lawmakers, also spoke last week in front of a virtual charter school study group assembled to craft recommendations for the State Board of Education of how the online-only schools should operate in North Carolina.

At that meeting, Gifford acknowledged low graduation and performance rates K12,Inc.-run schools have had in other states, saying that the company’s schools tend to attract low performing students and the home-based system of education can do little to help those high-school students.

“High school is a nightmare,” Gifford told the virtual charter study group last Tuesday. Forty percent of the students in high school will be very successful.”

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WRAL aired this documentary last night on the state’s new unemployment insurance, focusing on the estimated 170,000 longterm unemployed who were rendered ineligible for federal unemployment help when the N.C. General Assembly adopted changes for the state’s unemployment system.

North Carolina, which has the third highest unemployment in the state, was the only state to reject the federal funds as it sought an expedited way to repay $2.5 billion borrowed by the unemployment system in the height of the recession. Businesses saw a modest increase in what they pay into the system, while the length of time and amount of benefits were significantly reduced for those who find themselves suddenly without jobs.

Veteran WRAL anchor Bill Leslie talked with people whose benefits had been cut off, to see how they’ve fared.

You can watch the video here, or below.