NC JUSTICE NEWS: Burdening the Unemployed + Fighting Energy Rate Hikes + Expanding Public Transportation

December 18, 2012

BURDENING THE UNEMPLOYED: Proposal cuts benefits, taxes

Policymakers' recent proposal to reform the unemployment insurance system through a series of benefit and tax changes is highly out of balance.

The NC General Assembly's Revenue Law Study Committee’s proposal would result in deep benefit cuts for workers in order to eliminate debt incurred over the Great Recession and pay for further tax cuts for employers. Essentially, workers would be paying for debt created by tax cuts for employers in the 1990s, which — when combined with two historic economic downturns — left the UI system severely depleted.

What does this mean for workers? According to a new report from the Budget & Tax Center, the proposal would reduce the maximum benefit by 33 percent and the maximum duration of benefits from 26 to 20 weeks. It would also change how benefits are calculated and who is eligible, resulting in a reduced share of unemployed workers that can access benefits.

Workers will pay, while many employers would see tax cuts. At least 43 percent of the state's taxable wages would be taxed at a lower rate under the new proposal, with the potential for an even greater tax cut on taxable wages.

It's crucial for both the public and policymakers to receive more information about who exactly would be impacted by these changes — and ensure that North Carolina has an unemployment insurance system that can serve the state's economy in the future.

TRANSPORTATION: Public transit needs to reach low-income residents

Policymakers across the state are moving forward to expand public-transit options in North Carolina. Expanding public transportation — from additional bus services to developing commuter and light rails — is crucial to our state's future. But it's just as important to ensure that such plans take into account where low-income North Carolinians live and work. It's the only way new and expanded transit can succeed.

Low-income North Carolinians are public transit's most reliable customers. Sixty-seven percent of the state's workers commuting by public transit had annual incomes below $25,000 last year, and the share of low-income workers commuting by transit increased by nearly 11 percent from 2010 to 2011. Many of these individuals need to be better connected to transit from where they live, as housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable in urban areas where public transit is primarily located and jobs are more plentiful.

Investing in public transportation helps connect residents to education, employment, and social networks that can help improve one's economic standing. But it only helps if transit connects where individuals live to where those opportunities are available, given the increasing spatial mismatch between public transit, affordable housing, and job growth. North Carolina’s public transportation system will be more successful if it’s easily accessible by those who regularly use and depend on it.

UTILITY RATE HIKES: Help keep the lights on this holiday season

For a growing number of North Carolinians, simply keeping the lights on in their homes during the holidays season has become a growing challenge.

That's why consumer advocates, energy watchdogs and residential ratepayers are coming together to urge the NC Utilities Commission to ask Progress and Duke Energy to adopt a responsible plan to meet the state’s future energy needs without putting unfair burdens on residential consumers, small businesses and municipalities. They're urging residents to weigh in on how rate hikes will affect them and sign an online petition.

Last year, 236,144 Progress and Duke ratepayers had their power shut off for non-payment. Through the end of October this year, there have already been over 200,000 residences disconnected. For adults who are already strapped with medical costs, living expenses, and various day-to-day necessities, utility costs are an additional, painful burden.

Further rate hikes will drive up electricity bills across the board: for schools, families, towns, seniors, and small businesses. Sign the petition and send comments directly to the NC Utilities Commission at Tell them to stop Progress and Duke Energy from raising rates for North Carolinians.

BUILDING A BETTER NC EVENTS: Forum on economy, working families

North Carolina citizens can help write the next chapter in the story of our economy. Communities across the state will play host to a community conversation event entitled “Building a Stronger North Carolina,” led by staff from the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center, and United Way of North Carolina. Through this interactive session, members of the community will have the opportunity to respond to critical questions regarding key legislation and learn about ways to get engaged in issues that will affect the future of the state.

They will discuss top issues in state public policy, including the impact of current economic conditions on working families, and how the state budget directly affected education, health care and financial stability. Presentations will be held in communities across the state.

  • Guilford and Forsyth County. January 9, 9:00 a.m. 8818 West Market St., Girl Scouts’ Carolinas Peaks2Piedmont Triad Service Center, Colfax
  • Wake County. January 10, 3:00 p.m. NCAE, 700 South Salisbury Street, Raleigh

An additional event will be held in Greenville on January 8, 2013. More details are available at here.

SUPPORT THE NC JUSTICE CENTER: End-of-the-Year Fundraising

Thank you for your ongoing interest in the work of the North Carolina Justice Center. We value each of one our readers and supporters, and hope our relationship will continue into 2013 and beyond.

You can support the work of the North Carolina Justice Center with an End-of-the-Year tax-deductible donation. Your donations allow us to support the many projects at the Justice Center, from health care, education and budget issues to immigration and workers' rights. Consider becoming a sustaining supporter or make a one-time donation. Click here to make an on-line contribution.

The NC Justice Center thanks you and wishes you a very happy holiday season.


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