NC Budget and Tax Center

Do our choices match our values, as a state and as a nation? A July 4 rumination

Our country was born 241 years ago, when our Founding Fathers adopted the Declaration of Independence. The story that we tell ourselves, of our birth and who we are as a country, has been a continuous thread since then – the story of the American Dream. We tell ourselves that, in our country, there is equal opportunity for everyone – no matter where they are born or who they are. We tell ourselves that we have long been a country that is welcoming to everyone. That we are many states united, where the fate of each person is intertwined with the fate of all of us – that we value loyalty, to our neighbors and to our country.

That’s the story we tell ourselves. But then there’s the reality of the choices we make, of how things are – and how things could be if our choices actually reflected our values as a country.

If we made choices as a state and as a country that were in line with the values of the American Dream, every worker would make a living wage and the discrimination that drives differences in wages for women and men, Blacks and whites would be addressed.  Black women wouldn’t have to work hard to make only 68 cents for every dollar that white men make. Read more

2018 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

Standards and accountability lose as earmarks proliferate in budget deal

By a conservative count, there are over $32 million in earmarked special projects funded in the conference budget being debated this week. After years of railing against patronage and backroom deals, House and Senate leadership have suddenly become big fans of earmarking funds for legislator’s pet projects back home.

This list of projects is just the tip of the local need iceberg. After years of tax cuts and hemming in local governments’ ability to raise funds, there is a deep backlog of important local projects that deserve state support. While many of the earmarks address local priorities that have gone unfulfilled in recent years, this budget does little to address the structural deficit in our investment in local communities.

Earmarking funds for pet projects is no the way to do good policy. There was no public process that determined which projects address the more striking needs, which projects will have the largest social and economic impacts, and which projects have the broadest community support.

These earmarks also lack accountability. In well-administered programs, recipients of public funds are obligated to document that funds were used appropriately and actually achieved the intended goal. These types of accountability standards often help to refine programs over time, make it more likely that good stewards of public funds receive support in subsequent years, and provide an empirical basis for evaluating the effectiveness of the program. Unfortunately, many of the earmarks in this year’s budget lack even these most basic features of good governance.

— Budget & Tax Center Staff Report

2018 Fiscal Year State Budget, NC Budget and Tax Center

Statement: This budget deal is not worthy of North Carolinians

Statement on the budget deal from Alexandra F. Sirota, Director of the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center:

The final budget that state lawmakers will vote on in the coming days reflects missed opportunities for North Carolina.  By pursuing more tax cuts even as states like Kansas have reversed course and abandoned their own failed tax-cut experiment, leaders of the NC General Assembly have chosen to stay the course and continue to do less for more North Carolinians.

The final state budget includes many of the worst ideas and budget decisions from the House and Senate proposed budgets — including cutting legal assistance for low-income residents, failure to provide needed additional funding for K-12 classroom teachers, and using increasingly uncertain federal dollars to meet ongoing state priorities.

North Carolina’s leaders should put forward a budget that truly reflects the priorities of our growing state, including healthy and safe communities, quality educational opportunities and skills training, thriving communities, and broadly shared economic prosperity. They should make a sustained commitment to rebuilding Eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew instead of offering just a fraction of what is needed. Instead, lawmakers have chosen to give even more benefits to the wealthy and profitable corporations. As state leaders continue to dig their heels in on their failed tax cut experiment, it is time for leaders across the state to emerge and demonstrate the harm of another budget that is not worthy of North Carolinians.

NC Budget and Tax Center

Trump budget would shift huge SNAP costs to states, put North Carolinians at risk of going hungry

President Trump’s budget proposal would shift a significant share of the cost of the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program’s (SNAP, previously known as Food Stamps) benefits to states and, for the first time, allow states to cut SNAP benefits, seriously threatening SNAP’s extraordinary long-term success  in reducing severe hunger and malnutrition, according to a new report from the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“This proposal threatens to dramatically increase the number of North Carolinians at risk of going hungry,” said Brian Kennedy II, Public Policy Fellow with the Budget & Tax Center. “In a nation of this much wealth, that would be unconscionable. North Carolina’s congressional delegation must reject any proposal that puts North Carolinians, including children, seniors, and people with disabilities, at risk of not getting enough to eat.”

Historically, SNAP benefits have been financed with federal funds to ensure that regional disparities in hunger, poverty and resources are properly addressed which has helped ensure that low-income households have access to adequate food despite where they might live.

The President’s budget would end this longstanding and successful approach by forcing states to cover 10 percent of SNAP benefit costs beginning in 2020, and increasing that share to 25 percent in 2023 and later years. The proposal would cut federal SNAP funding by $116 billion over a decade. Read more

NC Budget and Tax Center

Video: Eight months after Hurricane Matthew, North Carolinians still struggling to rebuild


Today is the 8-month anniversary of the day Hurricane Matthew first hit North Carolina’s shores. It flooded the Eastern part of the state, causing $2.8 billion in damage and unsettling the lives of many North Carolinians. Eight months later, their lives remain unsettled. Many are still living in hotels all over Eastern North Carolina. Their children are at unfamiliar schools. Employees and business owners can’t get back to work.

Robeson County was one of the hardest hit areas of North Carolina. Many people are still waiting to hear if FEMA will help rebuild their homes, and there is still a great need for places like the Free Relief Store. Adrienne Kennedy, a full-time volunteer at the Free Relief Store, is still living in a hotel room herself, but it hasn’t stopped her from connecting people in Robeson County with the help they need. The Free Relief Store hands out donations of food, clothing, furniture and more, and it connects people with information about services that they don’t hear about anywhere else.

Adrienne and the other folks in this video are just a few of the people we’ve talked to all over the Eastern part of the state who are still in limbo after Hurricane Matthew.

North Carolina has only allocated $200.9 million in state funding for disaster relief assistance. The joint budget allocates only $100 million more, contingent on the passage of a separate bill. With the federal government giving less than 1 percent of the requested $929.4 million needed to rebuild Eastern NC, these numbers fall far short of what is needed to rebuild the lives of these North Carolinians. It’s time for lawmakers in North Carolina to commit to investing what is needed to rebuild the lives of these North Carolinians.

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Hoy conmemoramos el octavo mes desde que el Huracán Matthew primero golpeó las costas de Carolina del Norte.  El huracán inundó la parte oriental del estado causando $2.8 billones en daño y descolocando las vidas de muchos Norte Carolinos.  Ocho meses después, sus vidas siguen desarregladas.  Muchos todavía están viviendo en hoteles por todas partes del Este de Carolina del Norte.  Sus hijos asisten escuelas extrañas.  Empresarios y empleados no pueden regresar a sus trabajos.

El condado de Robeson fue una de las áreas más afectadas en Carolina del Norte.  Muchas personas todavía esperan saber si FEMA asistirá en reconstruir sus hogares, y todavía existe una gran necesidad de tener almacenes socorristas como el “Free Relief Store.”  Adrienne Kennedy, que es una voluntaria de tiempo completo en el almacén Free Relief Store, todavía sigue viviendo ella misma en un cuarto de hotel, pero eso no la ha impedido en conectar a las personas en el condado de Robeson con la ayuda que necesitan.  El almacén Free Relief Store distribuye donaciones de alimentos, ropa, muebles y más, y conecta a la gente con información sobre servicios que de otro modo no conocerían.

Adrienne al igual que las otras personas en este video solo son unas cuantas personas con quienes hemos podido hablar por toda la parte oriental del estado quienes todavía están en el limbo después del Huracán Matthew.

El estado de Carolina del Norte solamente ha asignado $200.9 millones de fondos estatales para proveer asistencia de auxilio en caso de desastre. La Cámara de Representantes y el Senado solamente asignaron $100 millones adicionales, pero aun esa cantidad dependería de la disposición o promulgación de otra ley. Con el gobierno federal dando menos de un por ciento (1%) de los $92.4 millones requeridos para reconstruir la parte oriental de Carolina del Norte, estos fondos quedan muy lejos de la cantidad necesitada para reconstruir las vidas de estos Norte Carolinos. Ya es hora de que los legisladores en Carolina del Norte se comprometan a examinar lo que se necesita para poder reconstruir las vidas de estos Norte Carolinos.