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The North Carolina House approved a budget last week that would chart the wrong path for North Carolina, according to a new brief released by the N.C. Budget & Tax Center. Similar to their colleagues in the Senate, the House leadership was intent on including tax cuts for the wealthy and profitable corporations in their budget at the expense of everyone else. The result is a budget that falls far short of meeting the needs of children, working families and communities across major budget areas.

In the House tax and budget plan, these tax cuts will cost $528.6 million in lost revenue over the next two years, with the cost ballooning to $651.1 million annually once the plan is fully implemented in the 2018 fiscal year. These figures represent the net tax changes of the House tax plan plus the repeal of the estate tax. Even worse, 95 percent of taxpayers, on average, would see their taxes go up in addition to cuts in vital public services under the House’s formula for “prosperity.” Read More

Policymakers are using the Tax Foundation’s flawed readings of academic literature to suggest that there is an economic consensus that their tax plans are the right path forward for North Carolina. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report yesterday that dug into the research and finds that no such consensus exists.

  • Numerous academic studies find no correlation between state tax levels and various measures of state economic performance (for example, income growth, firm formation, job creation and net household migration).
  • Other studies find that higher taxes are actually associated with better economic performance when they finance higher-quality education and better infrastructure needed and desired by businesses and households.
  • Some studies find that taxes have no effect in one time period and a negative effect in another, a positive effect on one measure of state economic performance and a negative effect on a different measure and/or different effects depending upon how tax levels are measured and the time frames under examination. But there is no consistency in the findings as to which time periods or measurements matter.
  • Nor are there consistent findings as to which taxes matter most for economic growth. Some studies find that state corporate income taxes don’t affect economic growth but state personal income taxes do, and others conclude precisely the opposite.
  • Finally, some studies conclude that while taxes’ effect on economic performance is statistically significant, the effect should be viewed as of such little economic significance that it should not be allowed to drive decisions as to whether taxes should be increased or cut.

To put it simply, there is no economic consensus that cutting taxes is a good strategy to grow the economy.

For those wonks out there following the details on how these tax plans are going to impact North Carolinians across the income distribution we have put together this short piece on the different tools that can be used to describe who pays. By far, the economic incidence model is the best way to estimate population-level impacts.  That is the model that the Budget & Tax Center has used.

While some have said that these tax plans benefit everyone based on what will happen to select individual taxpayers, it is important to be clear that some will see their taxes go up. The infographic below shows just a few examples of who those taxpayers could be.

infogrfk- House-Senate Plan_Layout 1

Most importantly, though, the debate over who will be impacted by tax changes should be grounded in the best available tools and an economic incidence model can give us the best information about how the population overall will fare after tax changes have been made.

The tax plan that North Carolina’s Senate leaders unveiled yesterday should not be mistaken for tax reform. It is, in reality, a plan to gut North Carolina’s schools, public colleges and universities, infrastructure, and other key state investments that promote long-run prosperity.

The plan’s massive tax cuts, which would mainly benefit large corporations and the wealthy, would cost the state $1.3 billion each year once fully in place, roughly the entire annual budget for North Carolina’s community colleges. Blowing such a massive hole in the budget would jeopardize the quality public schools, nationally-recognized public university system, and other assets that have attracted businesses — and jobs — to the state in industries like financial services and scientific research.

Other states that considered similar proposals this year backed off in part because of the reality that huge tax cuts for the wealthy must be paid for with untenable reductions in funding for schools and other state services, tax hikes on others, or both. The North Carolina Senate’s plan ignores that reality and opts instead for wishful thinking.

Claims that the Senate plan will cause North Carolina’s economy to boom are simply empty promises. Any boost from cutting income taxes will be canceled out by the spending cuts or tax increases the state will be forced to adopt to balance its budget.

Elimination of the corporate income tax is largely a giveaway to multistate corporations that — rather than creating jobs — will likely stick the savings in an out-of-state bank or use it to pay higher dividends to stockholders, most of whom don’t live in North Carolina.

The plan’s personal income tax cuts won’t likely create jobs, either. Most small businesses would get a tax cut so small that it wouldn’t even cover one worker’s salary. Plus, small businesses rely on state education, roads, and other services that would degrade year after year under this plan.

To ensure a bright economic future, North Carolina should focus on strengthening the K-12 and higher education systems that have set the state apart in the past but faced deep cuts in recent years due to the recession. Blowing a huge hole in the state budget would make that crucial task much harder. North Carolina has nothing to gain and much to lose from the Senate’s misguided plan.

A major detail has been ignored in the rush to adopt a flat income tax rate. With a flat income tax, revenues will grow more slowly over time, leaving North Carolina unable to maintain its most important investments, such as education, which has already suffered from significant spending reductions in recent years. That means we will have to raise other taxes to make up the difference or suffer the consequences of underfunding our priorities.

In the presentation to House Finance of the bill, Representative Lewis stated that the income changes–including most significantly the adoption of a flat tax–would hold revenue growth to about 4.5 percent per year. If revenue had grown that slowly over the past 20 years, North Carolina would have been unable to make  many of its most important investments. In 2007, for instance, North Carolina would have had nearly $5 billion less for North Carolina’s schools, colleges and universities, roads, public safety, and other services. That $5 billion is more than our budget combined for the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, Indigent Defense Services PLUS funds to address the NC pre-K waiting list and half of the child care subsidy waiting list. Read More