January 25, 2011
STATE BUDGET: Eight strategies for closing the gap
The new legislative session starts tomorrow, and it’s time to deal with the state’s budget shortfall in a responsible way that supports critical investments in the key public structures—schools, community colleges and universities, hospitals, and courts—that will pave the way to a better future for all North Carolinians.
A brief from the Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center outlines how the state can effectively and sustainably raise needed revenue. Here’s a quick rundown of the eight strategies:
1. Evaluate expenditures based on their goals and determine if there are better ways to reach those goals.
2. Evaluate all special tax breaks and eliminate those that haven’t achieved their goals.
3. Aggressively seek taxes due that are not being paid.
4. Ensure that low- and middle-income families don’t pay more than their fair share to close the revenue gap.
5. Make careful decisions based on goals and effectiveness when making cuts.
6. Consider transferring some responsibilities to local governments, and provide them with the tax authority needed to fund those responsibilities.
7. Ensure that today’s budget solutions don’t simply pass the buck or make matters worse for North Carolina’s future.
8. Build a revenue system that is adequate, stable and based on ability to pay.
Now, don’t those strategies make more sense than making cuts that cripple the state’s education system and put more than 21,000 people out of work?
TOGETHER NC: A new poll, a new campaign
A new poll from the coalition Together NC shows that North Carolinians overwhelmingly support raising revenue to fund vital public investments. The poll shows substantial support for numerous revenue-raising proposals, including continuing a one-cent increase of the state sales tax, broadening the sales tax base to include more services while lowering the overall rate, and closing tax loopholes on out-of-state corporations.
People across the state know that investing in education and services is the best way to save jobs and boost the economy—and they strongly support raising revenue to fund these programs.
Together NC, a coalition of more than 120 groups, was a leading force in the 2009 effort to convince legislators to raise new revenue to avoid devastating cuts to public services. That effort prevented the most devastating budget cuts and saved thousands of jobs. This year, Together NC needs your support even more.
Send a Photo or Video to Together NC to Tell Your Story
The coalition is collecting personal stories about the impacts of budget cuts. Take a picture or video at an easily identifiable location, or hold up a sign that says, "[Your community] supports investing in our future." Your sign should include something about why you support public investments. It could be for schools, parks, or something specific to your community. Be creative. You can post it to Twitter using the hashtag #StandUp4NC, or tag (and follow!) @togethernc. You can also send it to Together NC organizer Clayton Brooks at email@example.com
LIQUOR SALES: Good call, Governor
Gov. Beverly Perdue’s decision to oppose privatization of state liquor stores is the right move for North Carolina's long-term fiscal health. Analysts with the Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center find that privatization would bring in a small revenue boost now, but it would have negative long-term consequences.
According to state ABC Commission statistics, North Carolina ranks 48th in per capita consumption of liquor but sixth in liquor revenues. In 2010, the state collected $210 million in revenue from liquor sales. Continuing the state-run ABC system would likely minimize alcohol abuse while preserving a stable revenue stream to fund vital public investments.
SMART GROWTH: Conference next week in Charlotte
Register today for the 10th Annual New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, to be held February 3-5 in Charlotte. Join leaders from across the country in the effort to tackle the environmental, social and economic challenges that will shape the world's future. The conference will look at smart-growth solutions that will reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil, create a green economy, assure a healthy population, foster more equitable development, and expand transportation and housing options for all Americans.
PUBLIC EDUCATION: Changes needed to charter school laws
The new legislative majority plans to eliminate North Carolina's charter school cap, which limits the state to no more than 100 charter schools. Before they do, legislators need to make some significant changes to the policies that govern charter schools.
Charter schools are public schools, but they are not subject to many of the regulations and restrictions that apply to traditional public schools—in theory, allow for greater responsiveness and innovation. But right now, North Carolina's charter schools run the gamut from exemplary models of education to horrific displays of poor school management.
In order to improve charter schools and better serve students, North Carolina must make some changes. First, North Carolina needs to shorten the duration of its charters for these schools from 10 years to five years. And instead of waiting five years for a full evaluation, it should be conducted after the third year. That will facilitate a more reliable and timely system of accountability.
Second, the state must act to prevent discrimination in the charter school admissions process. Currently, many charter schools have lower percentages of minority, special needs and economically disadvantaged students than traditional schools within the district. Mandating that charter-school student demographics reflect the district's demographics will prevent discrimination and ensure equal educational access for all students.
IMMIGRANTS' RIGHTS: Studies show benefit of legalization
A new study from the DC-based Immigration Policy Center finds that a path to legalization for undocumented workers would create jobs and boost the economy.
Legalized workers earn more and spend more, and that increased consumer spending creates more American jobs. (A 2009 study by the libertarian Cato Institute came to the same conclusion.) Legalized workers also pay more in taxes, which benefits everyone.