2011 Report on Project Work - Budget and Tax
- Protected an important tax credit for North Carolina’s working families. We led the 2007 effort to create a state Earned Income Tax Credit, which benefits more than 800,000 working families in North Carolina. This year, we played a central role in stopping a legislative attack that would have dramatically cut back the EITC and taken money out of the pockets of about 428,000 families. We re-engaged our previous EITC partners, developed a “Save EITC” website, and led a post-card campaign that collected more than 400 stories from families receiving the EITC and their neighbors. We published analysis of the EITC’s benefits to the state’s economy and to recipients and testified before legislators. Thanks in large part to our work, the attack on the EITC failed.
- Influenced the public debate about the state budget. Our research and communications efforts bolstered public support for taking a balanced approach to the state’s budget shortfall. We worked with our partners in Together NC – a coalition of more than 130 organizations – to craft and promote messages that emphasized the importance of public investments and the economic damage that severe budget cuts would cause. The public embraced our viewpoint, and polling showed that only 23 percent of North Carolinians agreed with the choices made in the final budget. Moreover, prominent state policymakers—including the governor and the House and Senate minority leaders—adopted our messaging.
- Held state legislative leaders responsible for the economic damage the budget they crafted will cause. Legislative leaders repeatedly tried to deny that their budget cuts would damage the people and economy of North Carolina. But we produced the data to expose how those cuts would undermine education, workforce development, infrastructure, and perhaps most importantly North Carolina’s already-struggling job market. The resulting public outrage forced legislators to back off from some of the proposed cuts. The final budget was damaging nonetheless, and we made sure the people of North Carolina knew it by publishing and heavily promoting a report that showed the budget would kill some 30,000 jobs in the public and private sectors.
- Improved access to post-secondary education. Our research on workforce development and engagement with the community college system helped to shape plans to reform developmental education in the state. A new pilot project we helped design will provide educational support to adult workers who are not prepared for the demands of community college. Through reports, blog posts and factsheets, we convinced lawmakers to restore some cuts to need-based financial aid for community college students. We also provided advocacy and research support for the governor’s veto of a bill that would have allowed community college campuses to opt out of the federal student loan program.
- Defeated an effort to severely damage North Carolina’s revenue system. The misleadingly named Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) came before the North Carolina legislature this year and threatened to dramatically undermine the state’s ability to fund its schools, universities, infrastructure and a wide range of human services. We produced a report that demonstrated the impact of the TABOR proposal, organized local community leaders and business leaders in opposition to TABOR, created a webinar and distributed information to partners and allies. We also held meetings with key Council of State members and their staff, legislators, and non-traditional allies and testified against TABOR in a House committee hearing . In the end, the TABOR bill did not make it out of that committee.
- Making the state revenue system fairer, more stable and more adequate. We released a major report on revenue modernization detailing a plan to fix the state’s outdated, inadequate and unfair revenue system that would also help to close the budget shortfall. We made presentations to partners and community groups on the revenue alternatives in our plan and widely disseminated the report to advocates, local Chambers of Commerce and local leaders.
- Fighting for increased public support and more quality jobs for North Carolina’s working families. We published research on effective public options for job creation, and we worked to ensure full implementation of the governor’s Job Boost program. We released an updated version of one of our signature publications, the Living Income Standard, a market-based measure of what it takes for a family to make ends meet in each of the state’s 100 counties. The report also outlined the difficulties created by the prevalence of low-wage jobs in North Carolina and how the state can better support its working families. In addition, we produced the first of what will be an annual publication looking at a variety of challenges facing working families, including caregiving responsibilities, long-term unemployment, and the lack of jobs that pay family-supporting wages.
- Educating community leaders and activists about the state budget and its impact on North Carolina’s people and institutions. In addition to publishing nearly 50 reports and briefs, we gave more than 25 presentations to community groups on the state budget, taxes, and funding for vital public institutions and services. We conducted teach-ins and provided state-level data on income inequality for the Occupy movements in Raleigh and Durham and on college campuses. In addition, we have developed innovative ways to inform and engage the public on state budget and tax issues, including several series of infographics that we released and promoted online. One series put budget cuts proposed in the state House budget next to reasonable revenue options in order to illustrate that the cuts could be avoided. Other series tracked economic data on North Carolina’s working families and documented the effect of severe budget cuts on the state’s public structures and communities.
- Providing vital technical support to large progressive coalitions in North Carolina. With the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children, we lead Together NC, a coalition has more than 130 member organizations dedicated to protecting public structures and services for the state’s most vulnerable people. We provided timely analysis on budget and tax proposals to Together NC members and developed factsheets and analysis for the coalition’s news events and rallies. In addition, the Justice Center provided considerable communications and design support for Together NC’s media outreach.
- Ensuring that corporations in North Carolina pay their fair share in state taxes. We continue our work organizing partners and the public against efforts to allow corporations to evade their responsibility to help fund state investments and services. In early 2011, the governor proposed a reduction to the corporate tax rate, and both houses of the legislature proposed to lower it even more. We analyzed the impact of these proposals on the state budget and engaged in extensive media outreach on the issue. Polling showed that our message was having impact as public support for the corporate tax cut slipped. So, the legislature abandoned the rate cut and instead passed a rule change that severely limited the Department of Revenue’s ability to go after corporate tax dodgers. The rule change is set to be studied in 2012, and we will be ready to provide data and engage our partners on this important issue of fairness and revenue adequacy.