HPU poll: North Carolinians express low trust in most institutions, people

North Carolinians are feeling low levels of trust in most institutions – government and otherwise – and even in each other, according to a new poll from High Point University.

The poll, taken though online interviews from Aug. 18 -25, found exceptionally low levels of trust in the federal government with just 7 percent saying they have a great deal of trust in Congress and 11 percent saying the same of the presidency. The U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Bureau of Investigation did not score dramatically higher, at 13 and 17 % respectively. Only 8 percent of respondents said they almost always trust the government to do what is right. Just one in five (19%) said they trust the federal government most of the time, while nearly a quarter (23%) said they never trust it.

“The HPU Poll tested how North Carolinians have different ideas about the government in Washington,” said Brian McDonald, associate director of the HPU Poll and adjunct instructor, in a statement released with the results. “And this poll shows that a majority of respondents trust the government in Washington only some of the time.”

But the levels of trust were low for a variety of non-governmental institutions as well, including banks and public schools (both 14%) and the church or organized religion (19%).

Respondents in the poll also didn’t express much trust in each other. Just over a quarter (28%) said most people can be trusted while nearly three-quarters (72%) said you need to be careful in dealing with people.

Get the full results of the poll and information on methodology here.

Editorial calls on lawmakers to exempt student debt relief from state income tax, can their attacks on program

A Capitol Broadcasting Co. editorial says Sen. Thom Tillis should can his hypocritical attacks on student loan debt relief.

As was noted in this morning’s radio commentary, North Carolina lawmakers need to act to prevent an absurd outcome for thousands of state residents who will benefit from President Biden’s student loan debt relief initiative.

It turns out that while the federal government and almost all other states will not consider this debt relief as income for tax purposes, North Carolina will offer no such break. Instead, recipients will have to pay North Carolina income taxes on the debt relief they receive.

And, of course, this makes no sense.

As the lead Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com put it this morning:

The North Carolina legislature is one “that’s never seen a corporate tax cut it didn’t embrace. It wasted little time to link to federal tax codes to exempt those businesses from state taxes on millions they got in federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) dollars.”

That’s why, the editorial notes, “It should act with the same dispatch to extend the same break to those with student loans.”

The editorial also echoes some of the main points conveyed in this morning’s Weekly Briefing — most notably that conservative critics like Sen. Thom Tillis should: a) can their hypocritical attacks on the relief program, and b) get serious about taking on the root cause of the debt crisis: inadequate investments in higher education.

As the editorial notes in conclusion:

Education, as the state’s founders clearly saw when they wrote the Constitution, was critical to the state’s civic and economic well-being. They saw it as a responsibility – and obligation – to provide as broadly as possible both access to a quality basic education as well as the additional benefits of higher education.

The General Assembly must act, immediately, to extend the personal tax exemption to those who will benefit from the federal cut in student loan debt.

Even more significantly, it should embark on an effort that fulfills the state Constitution’s promise of a higher education that is “free of expense” on all campuses – not just a select five.

Click here to read the entire editorial, here to explore the Weekly Briefing and here to listen to the one-minute radio commentary.

Biden student loan forgiveness will be taxable income in North Carolina

Student loans forgiven under a plan outlined by President Joe Biden last week will be subject to state taxes, the North Carolina Department of Revenue announced on Wednesday.

Borrowers who make up to $125,000 annually — or $250,000, if they are married — could see up t0 $10,000 of their federal student debt forgiven under a plan the Biden administration unveiled on Aug. 24. Low-income borrowers who received Pell Grants for their education are eligible for up to another $10,000 in forgiveness under the plan.

The debt cancellation is exempt from federal income tax because of a provision in the American Rescue Plan passed by the U.S. Congress. The North Carolina General Assembly, however, did not adopt the same provision in relation to the state income tax, so student loan forgiveness is “currently considered taxable income in North Carolina,” per the Department of Revenue.

“The Department of Revenue is monitoring any further enactments by the General Assembly that could change the taxability of student loan forgiveness in North Carolina,” reads a press release.

According to Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit the Tax Foundation, North Carolina is one of five states that could tax student loans forgiven under the Biden plan as personal income.

“Note that, while the debt—if retained—would have been paid over a period of years, the debt cancellation is included in income in the year in which it is taxed,” the Tax Foundation post reads. “In the coming weeks and months, we are likely to see additional states issue guidance on the treatment of discharged student loan debt, and perhaps even adopt legislative fixes, causing this list to dwindle further.”

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Elizabeth City State University receives more than $100K for library updates, digitizing historical documents

Elizabeth City State University has received more than $100,000 in grants for two library-related projects. The university will use the money to update the digital inventory and self-checkout systems at its G.R. Little Library as well as becoming a satellite office for the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center’s work digitizing historical documents, photographs and newspapers.

Elizabeth City State University

The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded ECSU, the smallest of the UNC system’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), two grants as part of the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA).  For the library update, the university received $172,898 and $53,156 to extend its work in assisting in digitizing historical documents.

“Libraries are at the heart of our community and the university,” said Dr. Juanita Spence, ECSU Director of Library Services, in a statement Thursday. “They provide free access to information whether that’s books, resources, the internet, computers and more. We are improving the user experience through increased convenience and privacy, while also making our operations more efficient.”

In April the school announced it would use a $50,000 grant from the UNC System to revamp how they appeal to and support older students finishing their degrees. The same month, the university announced it would provide a one-time $1,000 housing grant to each student living on campus in in the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters.

The university has been seeing a period of growth, with fall 2021 enrollment up 2.6% to 2,054, the largest enrollment the school has seen since 2013. That’s still far from its peak of about 3,000 students, but with the UNC System raising the cap on out of state students for HBCUs that growth is projected to continue.