NC Budget and Tax Center

State and local tax policies can advance or block racial equity. How is N.C. doing?

In a major report released today by the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, researchers present a review of tax policy choices that have historically blocked opportunities for people of color and the ongoing challenge of assuming that tax policy is “race-neutral.”

The findings are particularly important for North Carolina.  Our state gets a mention in the report for recent tax cuts that have fueled the racial divide in our state.  Beyond that, North Carolina has failed to heed the lessons of our history—designing tax policy with the wealthy and white in mind rather than with the possibilities of connecting more people to the wealth-building potential of a good education, affordable home, reliable and quality health care, and thriving communities.

Indeed, of the three major recommendations from the report below, North Carolina has almost completely failed.

  • Strengthen State Tax Structure: Ensure that households with high incomes pay a larger share of their income in state and local taxes than households with lower incomes — the opposite of the upside-down tax systems in place in 9 of every 10 states today. Most states’ tax structures actually worsen racial and ethnic inequities because the tax structures are regressive and households of color are more likely to have lower incomes and less wealth than white households.
  • Raise Revenue to Invest in Overcoming Inequities: Raise sufficient revenue for high-quality schools in all communities and for other investments in education, infrastructure, health, and the like, and target spending to help overcome racial and ethnic inequities and build an economy whose benefits are more widely shared.
  • Improve the “rules of the game”: Improve the fiscal policy “rules of the game” so lawmakers don’t face artificial constraints that prevent them from raising more revenue from wealthier residents or to finance public investments that can promote broadly shared prosperity.

Notably, the recent passage of a state constitutional amendment in N.C. that caps the income tax rate at 7 percent places an arbitrary barrier that prevents progress toward advancing racial equity and the potential to boost North Carolina’s economy.

However, North Carolina policymakers still have many tools that they can and should pursue to advance the shared goal of expanding economic opportunity and an enhancing equity; this includes aligning the state tax code with ability to pay; adequately and equitably funding core services such as schools and health to connect Black, brown and white households to opportunity; and removing artificial constraints on tax and spending decisions such as the recent practice by legislative leaders of arbitrarily constraining spending and leaving needs unmet.

You can read the full report here.

News

FBI: Hate crimes in NC up 12 percent

Yesterday, we wrote about Russell Walker – a Republican candidate for N.C. House District 48 who got 8,500 votes in last week’s election despite declaring “God is a racist” and that Jews are Satanic.

There has been an understandable amount of “Eh, who cares?” in reaction to Walker’s showing.

Sure, he took 37 percent of his district – and carried about a half a dozen precincts. But ultimately he lost – and to a Black minister. The N.C. GOP condemned and disowned him, despite his winning a Republican primary.

So why does it matter?

The answer is in an FBI report released Tuesday.

The report, the bureau’s annual look at hate crime statistics, found hate crimes – those motivated by race, ancestry, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability – up 17 percent nationally.

In North Carolina? They’re up 12 percent.

There were 166 known hate crimes in North Carolina in 2017, according the bureau. That’s up from 148 in 2016.

In that environment it’s worth asking how we got to a point where open white supremacists are running – and winning primaries, at least – all over the country.

Commentary, News

NC Superintendent Mark Johnson launches another bogus PR scheme

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson

North Carolina’s ethically challenged and frequently perplexed, but ever-self-promoting schools superintendent Mark Johnson is out with another superficial PR scheme that has nothing to do with advancing public education in our state and everything to do with trying to make Johnson look good. Johnson, who once purported to survey teachers via an online “poll” that included no way of assessing whether the respondents were actually teachers, is promoting another equally absurd “Parents’ Perspective Survey” about school testing.

Johnson distributed a mass email to parents today (he apparently obtained their emails from local public school system lists) that urges parents to respond to the “survey,” but that also features the prominent words in large type “Too Much Testing!” (how’s that for a fair and balanced poll?) and even offers the “chance to win $250 right before your holiday shopping.” You can see the email below.

Suffice it to say that this is a ridiculous and inappropriate scheme that ought to be beneath the dignity of supposedly serious public official entrusted with overseeing the education of the state’s children. The issue of whether North Carolina does too much testing of its students is certainly an important one, but one obviously can’t obtain legitimate results with such a preposterously slanted overture.

As the folks at the NC State polling operation Pack Poll tweeted this morning, Johnson’s scheme is “unethical” and “dishonest.” It may also be illegal if Johnson intends to bestow $250 on his contest winner from public funds. Of course, given Johnson’s recent flaunting of state ethics laws, such criticism is likely to bounce off the Superintendent—especially since it’s almost certain that his real intention here is not to survey parents, but to harvest email addresses for future political purposes. Here’s the bogus email:

 

Parents and caregivers,

As the State Superintendent of North Carolina’s public schools, I want you to know that your child’s success in school and beyond is our top priority. This school year, we want your input to make sure we are on the right track for students, parents, and teachers.

Today, we want to know your concerns about testing in school.

Too Much Testing!

Students, parents, and educators are concerned about too much testing. As both State Superintendent and a parent of a child in our public schools, I share your concerns.

We have already taken steps to reduce testing. Find out more by visiting this page

We have more work to do.

Please take our 5-minute survey on testing to tell us what you think.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

As an added incentive, after you take the survey, you can enter for a chance to win $250 right before your holiday shopping.

I will use your input to guide our work with state lawmakers and local school districts to reform the current system of over-testing.

We are working hard to improve our schools because every child should have the opportunity to go to safe and inviting schools, to work hard, and to succeed. Thank you for being a partner with us in this important mission.

 

 

 

Mark Johnson
NC Superintendent of Public Instruction
@MarkRJohnsonNC
NCsuperintendent.com

Commentary

Winston-Salem Journal rightfully blasts Trump’s latest assault on a free press

Donald Trump speaking

President Donald Trump

Be sure to check out the lead editorial (“Attack on the free press”) in today’s edition of the Winston-Salem Journal. In it, the Journal editorialists do a fine job of explaining why the Trump White House’s recent ban on CNN reporter Jim Acosta is both wrong and unconstitutional (a position that even Fox News has endorsed). Here’ the conclusion:

No one in America, not even the president, is above the law. Neither is anyone too powerful or important to be held accountable.

Journalists who ask tough questions, and those who report news stories that don’t fit the administration’s line, are not “enemies of the people,” no matter how hard Trump tries to vilify them and whip up hatred of them.

There is, in truth, a fair amount of “fake news” circulating on social media and elsewhere, and it’s tough enough for citizens to sort out what information is valid, well-researched and from a reasonably objective and responsible source. When Trump routinely labels anything that doesn’t follow his script as “fake news,” he’s undermining the free press that is essential to a healthy democracy.

Within a few days of his banning Acosta, Trump loudly — and rudely —attacked three black women members of the White House press corps, saying one is a “loser,” another asked “stupid” questions and the third was asking a “racist” question. That only makes Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ reliance on an obviously doctored videotape portraying an altercation between Acosta and a press aide also makes matters worse. This clumsy and childish tactic is unworthy of any press professional.

Trump’s disregard for the First Amendment and his attacks on the press are not only self-serving, they’re dangerous. They’re reminiscent of banana republic dictators who demand fawning, state-run media and suppress any hint of criticism or tough questions.

We don’t expect that kind of behavior from the president of the United States. And we shouldn’t tolerate it.

News

Faith leaders focus on gun violence prevention at Raleigh summit

Today the NC Council of Churches leads a day long summit focused on status of gun violence prevention legislation at the national and North Carolina level and, more importantly, the potential for change in the upcoming legislative sessions.

NC Policy Watch’s Rob Schofield spoke with Council of Churches Executive Director Jennifer Copeland last week about the event.

Click below to hear the full interview:


According to the American Public Health Association, gun violence has become a major public health issues in the United States. More than 85,000 people are affected by gun-related injuries per year, and nearly 38,000 people die due to gun-related violence.