NC Budget and Tax Center

“Raise the Age” law will require significant new appropriations

North Carolina was the last state in the U.S. to end the automatic prosecution of 16- and 17-year-old juveniles as adults when the General Assembly passed the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (JJRA) in 2017. As a result, 16- and 17-year-olds charged with non-violent crimes on or after Dec. 1, 2019, will be considered to be under the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system, pursuant only to specific exceptions.

Often referred to as “Raise the Age,” the JJRA is overseen by the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee, a group comprised of court counselors, judges, human services professionals, law enforcement, juvenile law experts, and others with years of experience related to juvenile justice tasked with bringing recommendations to ensure the effective implementation of JJRA. Successful implementation hinges on the adequate funding of the JJRA.

The Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee recommended state funding for successful implementation of the act as follows:

  • Juvenile Justice: $47.6 million in FY 20; $62.7 million in FY 21; and $57.3 million annualized.
  • Administrative Office of the Courts: $2.9 million in FY 20; and $2.8 million annualized.
  • Office of the Juvenile Defender: $122,000 recurring beginning FY 20.
  • Conference of District Attorneys: $125,589 recurring and $3,752 non-recurring beginning FY20.
  • The Committee also recommends funding the courts’ existing deficiencies $15.1 million in FY 20; and $14.5 million annualized.

The breakdown includes funding for court services, detention operation, educational and vocational training and related career planning and support, and Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils. A signature component of the Raise the Age approach, Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils (JCPC) bring community leaders together to review the needs of juveniles in the county who are at risk of delinquency or who have been adjudicated delinquent. JCPCs review existing services and make determinations about service and resource gaps to address youth needs, and evaluate program performance in order to ensure appropriate and effective resources exist to meet identified needs of system involved youth, with the ultimate goal of preventing interaction with the both the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems.

So far, proposed budgets fall short of full funding for Raise the Age. Read more

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

Fifteen great ideas that were lost in the legislature’s crossover deadline shuffle

The North Carolina General Assembly passed its self-imposed “crossover” deadline last week — the date by which many bills must be approved by at least one house to remain eligible for final passage this session. While the crossover rule is more of a guideline than a hard and fast requirement and is regularly ignored by legislative leaders, one can, by surveying the aftermath, get a good indicator of the priorities of legislative leaders and where the session is headed.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, this year’s deadline passed without consideration of a raft of excellent proposals that would have helped advance economic opportunity in our state. Here are 15 of those proposals that were lost in the crossover shuffle:

HB 46, Economic Security Act of 2019 — Sponsored by Representatives Fisher and Harrison, this bill was intended to increase the economic security of working North Carolinians. The bill would have increased the state minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, eliminated gender-based discrimination in pay, required employers to provide paid sick and family medical leave, attacked the state’s wage theft crisis, repealed collective bargaining restrictions for public employees, enacted a state-level Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, and enacted a “ban the box” provision in order to assure that job applicants with criminal records get a better opportunity to enter the workforce.

HB 5/SB 3, Close the Medicaid Coverage Gap — With this proposal, lawmakers in both houses sought to expand Medicaid to close the coverage gap for the 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians who lack adequate access to health care due to their lack of health insurance coverage.

HB 968, Local Government Inflation-Adjusted Minimum Wage — Representatives Farmer-Butterfield and Smith sponsored this bill to provide an inflation-adjusted living wage for local government employees, in order to ensure that they can afford to continue their work in the public sector.

HB 762, Nutritional Assistance for Employment Deserts — Representatives Queen, Turner, Ager, and Gailliard sponsored this bill with the intention of increasing access to food assistance for struggling job seekers. The bill would have allowed for a waiver of the time limits associated with the SNAP able-bodied adult employment requirements. With such a change, able-bodied adults would be able to continue to receive food assistance despite work requirements if they live and are seeking employment in an economically-depressed locale where a lack of available jobs makes the state’s current three-month time limit to find work prohibitive.

HB 946, Free Lunch for Some Students/Stop Lunch Shame — With this bill, Representatives Brockman, and Horn sought to appropriate $5 million to pay for the portion of school lunch not covered by federal funds for those students who are eligible for reduced priced lunch. The bill also requires schools to direct any communications about meal debt to parents rather than children, and cease any behavior that identifies or stigmatizes children who cannot afford a school meal or owe a meal debt.

HB 947, Free Breakfast and Lunch in K-12 Public Schools — Representatives Brockman, Quick, and Autry introduced a similar bill to appropriate funds to provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to students of the public school system.

HB 319, In-State Tuition Equity — Representatives Meyer, Fisher, Harrison, and Brockman sponsored this bill with the intention of increasing educational and future employment opportunities for all North Carolina youth. The bill would have extended the in-state tuition  rate for public colleges and universities to immigrant youth, regardless of immigration status, who attended North Carolina schools for at least two consecutive years or received a high school diploma from a North Carolina high school.    Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

State-level tax credits could help N.C. reduce child poverty

In North Carolina, 43 percent of children of all races live in poor or low-income homes. Respectively, 64 percent of N.C.’s Black and Hispanic/Latinx children live in poor or low-income households. Experiencing poverty during childhood has lifelong implications for a person’s physical and mental health, exposure to violence, educational attainment, and future financial security. Tax credits for working families, like the Child Tax Credit, are known to improve a child’s immediate and long-term well-being and access to opportunity.

Expanding state-level Child Tax Credits has the potential to reduce child poverty in North Carolina by 44 percent, while reducing deep child poverty in our state by 56 percent. That is equivalent to lifting 138,000 North Carolina children out of poverty, and 58,000 children out of deep poverty.

Unfortunately, the Child Tax Credit does not currently reach about one-third of the families and children at the federal level despite recent changes to the federal Child Tax Credit under the Tax Cuts and Job Act because they are part of households that earn too little to claim the full credit.

A new report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that states can both decrease childhood poverty and repair tax code inequities by filling in gaps left by the federal credit. In many states, including North Carolina, the poor and low-income residents pay a larger share of their income toward taxes than the state’s wealthiest residents. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

Legislatures across the country see EITC expansion legislation

The New Mexico legislative session came to a close last week with a tax policy bill that included an expansion of the New Mexico state version of the Earned Income Tax Credit from 10 percent to 17 percent of the federal credit.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is considered an especially effective policy mechanism for driving down poverty. As a result, a number of state legislatures have seen bills during the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions that have sought to increase the percentage value of their complementary state credit.

The Michigan legislature is considering two such bills. HB 4298 seeks to increase the Michigan state EITC from 6 percent to 20 percent of the federal credit. HB4324 would seeks to increase that percentage to 30 percent of the federal credit.

A bill recently introduced in the Delaware legislature is a hybrid of refundable and nonrefundable EITC. The bill is designed to give recipients a choice between a fully refundable credit at 4.5 percent of the federal credit, or a nonrefundable 20 percent credit.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed legislation to increase the state EITC from 10 percent to 30 percent of the federal credit.

2018 was marked with EITC expansion in six states. California, and Maryland sought to expand their state EITCs through increased accessibility across populations. Maryland now has no minimum age requirement for EITC filers. Single California filers age 18-24 without dependent children, along with single filers older than 65 without dependent children are now eligible to claim the California credit.

Massachusetts expanded its state credit from 23 percent to 30 percent of the federal credit, while Vermont and New Jersey saw similar increases from 32 percent to 36 percent and 35 percent to 40 percent respectively. Meanwhile, Louisiana expanded its EITC from 3.5 percent 5 percent of the federal credit.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Proposed tax cut bill in Congress would help 3.7 million in N.C.

A majority of the families that benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are single head of household filers— a filing designation commonly used by single mothers. The same single mothers who are struggling to provide the basics of a healthy and happy life for their children in an economic climate defined by stagnating wages and higher costs for childcare, medicine, and housing. North Carolina’s low- and middle-income working families are struggling to stay afloat as costs rise faster than their pay.

In North Carolina, these same families are responsible for an ever increasing tax burden while our state’s wealthiest individuals and corporations are not being asked to pay their share.

In stark contrast to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 that was heavily tilted in favor of corporations and the wealthy, several Senate co-sponsors just introduced the Working Families Tax Relief Act.

If successful, the Working Families Tax Relief Act will strengthen the highly effective EITC and Child Tax Credit (CTC).    Read more