Among numerous other dramatic and heretofore unpublicized changes, the Senate unveiled another version of its plan to shift sales tax revenues away from urban counties toward poorer rural counties this morning. And while parties can legitimately debate the wisdom of various sales tax apportionment methods, the underlying premise of the legislation — that adequate tax revenues are essential for communities to fund education and other public structures that are central to economic health and development — runs directly counter to everything else the conservative legislative majority preaches.

On virtually every other day, government is the enemy and the beast that needs to be starved. Somehow, however, when it comes to sales tax revenue, all of a sudden government is essential for community health.If you doubt this, listen to Senator Harry Brown preach about the inability of counties like his (Onslow) to offer teacher salary supplements and build new schools.

Earth to Senator Brown: There are lots of ways to get after the problem of inadequately funded public structures and services…like, for instance, not wrecking the state income tax.

The bottom line: It would be nice if these guys would get their story straight.  While their rhetoric this morning on the importance of public investments is welcome, the hypocrisy it evidences with respect to just about everything else they do and say is stunning.


There’s a new “must read” today from economist Patrick McHugh at the Budget and Tax Center. Here’s the summary:

North Carolina currently faces an important choice between two different paths for creating jobs and strengthening the economy, according to a new report from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. One would make the state a research and commercial hub rivaling Silicon Valley and the Boston’s Route 128 corridor and the other would emphasize low taxes and lax regulation.

Governor McCrory often emphasizes the innovation-driven strategy, calling for North Carolina to become the third “vertex of innovation” through proposals that would build on decades of public investment in education as well as partnerships between research institutions and the private sector. However, the state also continues to reduce taxes, particularly for the wealthiest North Carolinians, and ask less of large, profitable multinational corporations when it comes to paying for public services. North Carolina now faces the decision about whether to compete on price or on quality.

“The low-tax strategy is about competing on price – making the state a cheap place to do business in the short run by reducing companies’ taxes,” said Patrick McHugh, policy analyst with the Budget & Tax Center and author of the report. “The innovation-driven strategy is about enabling North Carolina workers and companies to produce quality goods that cannot be found everywhere. Cutting taxes has already scaled back precisely the kinds of investment that are needed to compete with the Bostons and Silicon Valleys of the world.”

These innovation centers have both outdone North Carolina and our neighbors to the south in the aftermath of the recession. Massachusetts had 4.1 percent more jobs in February of 2015 than it did at the end of 2007, and even California, which was slammed particularly hard by the collapse of the housing market, has managed to get employment back to 3.4 percent above the pre-recession level. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Income Data 2013

North Carolina is enduring a painfully slow economic recovery. There are too few jobs open for all of the people looking for work, and the majority of the new jobs available pay wages so low that families can’t make ends meet. The ongoing economic hardship is evidenced in new data released last week by the Census Bureau. Statewide, the poverty rate held steady at 17.9 percent in 2013, with more than 1.7 million North Carolinians living on incomes below the federal poverty level. That’s about $24,000 annually for a family of four—certainly not enough to pay all the bills, much less get ahead.

However, just looking at statewide averages can mask the concentrations of hardship in particular geographic communities. A large and growing body of research shows that where one lives can determine if one has access to the educational and employment networks that can pave a pathway to the middle class. Because place is deeply connected to the opportunity structure, it important to analyze county-level (as well as neighborhood-level) variances in poverty.

Of the 40 counties in North Carolina for which 2013 data is available, 15 are urban and 25 are rural (based on population size).* Nine of the ten counties with the highest poverty rates were rural counties, which continue to face job loss and struggle with the consequences of the exodus of manufacturing jobs. The highest county-level poverty rate was in Robeson County, where nearly 1 in 3 residents lived in poverty. In fact, Robeson County consistently ranks as the poorest county in the state and as one of the poorest in the nation. Read More


jobseconomyDon’t get us wrong; it’s almost always great whenever a new employer is creating jobs in North Carolina. And the phenomenon of politicians claiming credit for job creation is nothing new; everyone likes good news and wants to be around when it’s delivered.

That said, today’s press release from the office of Governor Pat McCrory announcing the expansion of a plastics manufacturer in Henderson County borders on the ridiculous. This is from the release:

“Governor Pat McCrory and N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker announced today that Elkamet Inc. is expanding its North Carolina manufacturing operations in Henderson County.  The company plans to create 20 new jobs and invest more than $2.5 million over the next three years in East Flat Rock…. Read More


In Kansas, tax reform isn’t exactly playing out the way some lawmakers had hoped.  The state that Grover Norquist once called “the starter gun for tax competition” has passed a series of income tax cuts over the past year with the stated goal of eventually eliminating income taxes altogether in the near future.  This “race to zero” is well underway in several states with conservative governors and legislatures.  Here’s a quick look at how that’s working out so far for Kansas:

A $2.5B budget shortfall

The Kansas Legislative Research Department is projecting a $2.5 billion revenue hole through 2018 because the legislature has yet to figure out an effective way to replace lost revenues as a result of the income tax cuts.

A threatened credit rating

Last month, a state court ruled that the Kansas legislature was breaking the law by underfunding public schools as a result of the income tax cuts, which prompted Moody’s Investors Service to warn of a negative credit risk for the state.

Less funding for public services

Concerns over the state’s credit rating aren’t the only thing that should give Kansans pause.  By starving public schools and other services critical to economic success, the state is jeopardizing future growth. Read More