NC Budget and Tax Center, Raising the Bar 2016

North Carolina’s older population and the need for state action growing

This post is part of a series on the state budget featuring the voices of North Carolina experts on what our state needs to progress so that all North Carolinians have a fair shot to get ahead.

By Mary Bethel – President, NC Coalition on Aging

raise the barThe Baby Boomers Are Here!  North Carolina is experiencing a significant increase in our older population as the state’s 2.4 million baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) have begun to enter the retirement age.  Today, 1 in 5 – over 2 million people – are age 60 and over and there are 170,000 people age 85+ living in the state.  By 2018, the state as a whole, and 90 of the 100 counties, will have more population 60 and over than age 0-17.

With this growth in the number of older adults comes an increased need for legislative action to help those who need assistance.  Many aging advocacy groups in the state, including the NC Coalition on Aging, a statewide alliance composed of agencies; organizations, groups and supporting individuals concerned with issues impacting older North Carolinians (www.nccoalitiononaging.org); are asking the General Assembly to appropriate funding for two priority areas. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center, Raising the Bar 2016

Promoting opportunity for children and their families in the state budget

This post is part of a series on the state budget featuring the voices of North Carolina experts on what our state needs to progress so that all North Carolinians have a fair shot to get ahead. 

By Michelle raise the barHughes, Executive Director, NC Child

What do North Carolina’s children need in order to get a solid start in life, and what priority should children have in the annual legislative competition for state funds? Child advocates like us are pressed every year to tell the legislature what we think is most important for our state’s 2.3 million children to grow into thriving, successful adults.  And every year we make the case for a range of effective, research-based policy solutions in health care, early childhood education, child care and child safety.

But after 30 years of working to make North Carolina the best place to be a child and to raise a child, we can say this without reservation: our children will most surely thrive when we support the families and the communities in which they live.   We cannot separate the fate of our state’s children from the reality of their parents’ lives, the condition of their neighborhoods, and the opportunities available or missing in their communities.

Unfortunately, many children in North Carolina are growing up in families living on the brink and in communities facing deep and persistent barriers to success and prosperity.  These families live in small towns and rural areas, but also in suburbs and city neighborhoods. They are striving to make ends meet, but low-wage jobs with few benefits are often the only ones available to them. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center, Raising the Bar 2016

Reinvestment should be top priority for lawmakers during the Short Session

This blog post raise the baris the first post in our week-long 2016 Raise the Bar blog series that will recap the state of the North Carolina budget and make the case for reinvestment so that all North Carolinians have a fair shot to get ahead.

Next Tuesday, state lawmakers will return to Jones Street for the start of the Short Session. The primary focus of the session will be to make adjustments to the second year of the two-year budget that lawmakers approved last year. That means that lawmakers have an opportunity to strengthen economic security for all North Carolinians and help build a more robust economic recovery.

Seizing that opportunity, however, will require lawmakers to refocus on evidence-based fiscal policies that are smart, targeted, and equitable—rather than policies that lead them further down the tax-cut and tax-swap paths that they’ve pursued. As a reminder, state lawmakers once again chose last year to cut taxes that primarily benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations, while also expanding the sales tax to new services like maintenance, repair, and installation, effectively further shifting the tax load onto middle- and low-income taxpayers.

Those tax decisions are closing the doors of opportunity for some North Carolinians and won’t fix what is wrong with our state’s economy (like too few jobs and a boom in low-wage work). The tax plans since 2013 will reduce revenue by more than $2 billion annually when fully implemented, cutting off pathways to greater economic success like early childhood development, public schools, affordable health care, supports for older adults, and community economic development while also failing to boost the economy or create the jobs North Carolina needs.

Below are four key points about the current state budget that would be good for lawmakers to reflect upon as they head into the new budget season. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

Policymakers should be wary of most policy proposals discussed at the Kemp Forum on Poverty

2016 may be the year that families working in low-wage jobs get the spotlight that they deserve from policymakers. Policymakers and candidates on both sides of the political spectrum are finally discussing economic policies that they purport will improve the lives of people who work hard to provide for their families but struggle to afford the basics.

Several Republican presidential candidates turned their attention to economic hardship and income inequality at the Kemp Forum on Poverty last weekend. In a positive development, one candidate voiced his support for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income childless workers so they can keep more of what they earn and make ends meet. Another candidate lifted up the benefit of adopting and expanding state EITCs—advice that is in line with a growing body of research that shows how the credit helps at every stage of life. Both policies would reduce poverty for children and families.

Unfortunately, such endorsements for stronger EITCs are out-of-step with GOP policy choices here in North Carolina, where state lawmakers axed the state credit in 2013—despite the fact that in one in three Tar Heel workers earn poverty-level wages.

While it is welcome news for candidates to pay unprecedented attention to poverty, it is concerning that a good share of the discussion falsely portrayed fundamental truths about poverty trends, the effectiveness of work and income supports (i.e. the safety net), and how the proposals discussed would in reality increase material hardship and poverty. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center, Uncategorized

Top 10 state budget missteps in 2015

The 2015 year brought plenty of budget missteps on Jones Street—from another round of tax cuts to state investments that are mired at historic lows. Here’s a look at the top 10 missteps that state policymakers should address in 2016.

  1. State lawmakers once again chose to cut taxes that primarily benefit the wealthy and profitable corporations over meaningful levels of reinvestment. The tax plan will reduce revenue by $1 billion annually when fully implemented, cutting off pathways to greater economic success like early childhood development, public schools, and community economic development while also failing to boost the economy or create jobs.
  2. State lawmakers failed to restore the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which benefited nearly 1 million families and their 1.2 million children. Yet, they chose to expand the sales tax to new services like maintenance, repair, and installation, effectively further shifting the tax load onto middle- and low-income taxpayers.
  3. The 2015 tax changes make our tax system more upside-down by asking even more from people who are already struggling to pay the bills. Under full implementation of the tax package, the lowest income working families will end up paying a tax increase of $7, on average, whereas millionaires are the big winners again with a tax cut of more than $1,800 on average.
  4. This budget doesn’t address falling wages, just as the last two budgets failed to do. In 2013 an hour’s work in NC earned around $2.50 less than the national average; now that gap has grown to almost $3.00. Allowing the state’s lowest-income families to keep more of what they earn through an EITC is a key way to build a stronger economy, along with a higher minimum wage and collective bargaining rights, but legislators failed to restore the tax credit and raise the minimum wage.
  5. State investment is at historic lows. State lawmakers passed a budget that keeps state spending as part of the economy below the 45-year average. That would be fine if needs have shrunk but they’ve grown. State budgets typically allow spending to grow as the population grows and the economy changes, especially after an economic downturn when revenues plummet and services are frozen or cut.
  6. State investments break an unwelcome modern record as they remain diminished. Lawmakers passed a budget that caps off the only period since 1971 in which state spending declined as a part of the economy for seven and eight straight years while the economy itself grew. Continuing on a tax-cut path means there simply won’t be enough revenue left over to repair critical investments or to position our state to compete.
  7. Eight years later, state investment remains below pre-recession levels despite more children to educate, more older adults to care for, and more citizens to serve and protect. Such long-term disinvestments have translated into significant unmet needs for our state’s growing population—a shortage of K-12 textbooks, school nurses, and community services for older adults.
  8. This budget continues to hold us back from ensuring educational success for every child. For the current school year, lawmakers invested more per student compared to the 2015 fiscal year budget but well below 2008 pre-recession levels—nearly $500 less per student. This will cause real harm to the classroom and educational outcomes. The number of students in North Carolina schools has continued to increase since 2008, yet the amount of funding per student— and, therefore, the resources available to educate each student—has not been state lawmakers’ priority over tax cuts.
    • For example, textbook spending is below half its 2010 peak level, leaving some schools with outdated textbooks or with no textbooks at all.
  9. Continuing down a tax-cut path is deepening cracks in NC’s opportunity structure—and it has left several vital areas of public programs and services inadequate.
    • For example, lawmakers kept year-over-year spending flat for the pre-kindergarten program that serves at-risk 4-year olds. They failed to restore the more than 6,400 slots lost since 2009 or give opportunity to the 7,200 children stuck on the waiting list.
    • For example, tuition at community colleges rose for the seventh consecutive year to $76 per credit hour from $72—an 81 percent increase since 2009—increasing the likelihood of a college education being out of the reach of many.
  10. This tax-cut path—and the revenue losses that come with it—also mean that some investments are completely missing from the budget.
    • For example, there is no cost-of-living adjustment for retired public employees like former state troopers and teachers despite their shrinking purchasing power due to changes in the economy.
    • For example, there is no Medicaid expansion, which means lawmakers denied affordable health care to about 500,000 North Carolinians.
    • For example, there is no support to ensure that all rural communities have reliable high-speed internet access that is increasingly essential to participating in the global economy—which leaves struggling rural communities further behind urban areas.

Read more