Creating a better future for North Carolina and its residents takes vision. And developing a vision of a fair and thriving economy takes research.
In 2014 the Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center (BTC) launched its “Economy for All” campaign to promote policies that would decrease poverty and increase opportunity for North Carolinians. We did extensive research on North Carolina’s economy, labor market, and state budget. We revealed how changes to the state revenue system have hurt working families from two directions—by making those who can least afford it pay more in taxes and by forcing cuts in programs those families depend on. We produced dozens of publications and blog posts and gave presentations to community groups throughout the state in order to educate North Carolinians about the dangerous path the state is on. Plus, we pushed our research on social media using the hashtags #StoptheCuts and #BetterChoicesNC.
Our research covers every aspect of the economy as it affects low- and moderate-income North Carolinians. The BTC looked at the increase in low-wage jobs and the decrease in state funding for workforce development programs. We crunched the numbers to determine what constitutes a living wage in North Carolina. We analyzed data to understand and explain the interplay of race, location and poverty in North Carolina.
And each time the BTC published our research, we included policy recommendations that could improve the financial outlook for North Carolina families—reinstating the Earned Income Tax Credit, providing work supports like child care subsidies, and investing in infrastructure. We also exposed problems with the state’s primary system for creating new jobs—tax incentives for new or growing businesses. Our analysis revealed that the majority of North Carolina’s incentive dollars go to three of the wealthiest counties, rather than to the many rural counties that are struggling.
The BTC worked to educate local school boards and superintendents about the community eligibility program, which would allow all students in high poverty schools or districts to receive free meals. Turns out, most superintendents didn’t even know about the program! Thanks to our efforts—which included factsheets to superintendents, follow up phone calls, and technical assistance with the financing aspects—more than 30 school districts adopted community eligibility this school year.
Many other progressive organizations in North Carolina rely on our data and analysis to inform them about what’s happening in the state’s economy and to help them develop their own legislative agendas. In fact, we responded to more than 140 technical assistance requests in 2014. Our state budget report served as a vital resource for others trying to understand how recent tax cuts have undermined North Carolina’s ability to rebound from the recession. And our ongoing analysis of the tax cuts passed in 2013 informed media coverage and partners about the costs of the cuts to our state and how these cuts are undermining the state’s economy.