NC JUSTICE NEWS: Defenders of Justice 2015 + Tell lawmakers to vote against big tax breaks for corporations, hikes for families + UNC Board of Governors

March 3, 2015

SAVE THE DATE: The 17th Annual Defenders of Justice Awards

Mark your calendars! This year's Defenders of Justice (DOJ) Awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, May 14 at the William and Ida Friday Center in Chapel Hill.

The Defenders of Justice Awards are given by the Justice Center to honor individuals or organizations that are making significant contributions in the following areas: Litigation; Policy Research and Advocacy; Legislative and Administrative Advocacy; and Grassroots Empowerment. Here are this year's honorees.

Legislative & Administrative Advocacy
Rep. Susan Fisher
Sen. Gladys Robinson

Policy Research & Advocacy
Center for Responsible Lending
Tom Vitaglione

The University of North Carolina's Center for Civil Rights
Former Justice Bob Orr

Grassroots Empowerment
Ajamu and Rukiya Dillahunt

Look out for registration information and sponsorship opportunities in the upcoming weeks. We'll see you on May 14! Click here for more information.

TAKE ACTION: Tell NCGA to vote NO on tax breaks to corp., hikes for families

This week the House is likely to move quickly to vote on House Bill 117 and Senate Bill 20.

We all want to create jobs and grow an economy that benefits every part of the state. Unfortunately, HB 117 doesn’t deliver for working families and will likely leave our rural counties behind. The bill doubles funding for business incentives at a time when the state’s major incentive program, Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG), has come up short on its promises of job creation and private investment 60% of the time. Before such a massive increase in JDIG spending, the General Assembly should first review and evaluate the program to find ways to increase the benefit to rural North Carolina and to increase the state’s success in job creation under the program. Even more troubling, this bill also provides a big giveaway to corporations with no promise of new jobs by implementing a change to the way corporations apportion their income for taxation purposes known as Single Sales Factor.

At the same time, policymakers will consider Senate Bill 20, which would raise much needed revenue for transportation while also updating various aspects of the state code. It is important to note that while gas taxes can effectively raise revenue to ensure safe roads, working families shouldn’t carry more of a tax load in an environment when they already pay more in taxes than those at the top. We need to reinstate an Earned Income Tax Credit to help offset the increased cost of gas in future years. This bill also makes life more difficult for working families by eliminating a tax deduction for tuition and requiring homeowners to pay tax on mortgage debt forgiven by lenders even though they didn’t actually see that income.  Both provisions shift the tax load even further onto working families while keeping in place costly tax breaks for corporations.

We urge you to contact your State Representative TODAY and tell them to vote NO on HB117 which pursues a failed economic development policy of big breaks for corporations with no return on investment and NO on SB20 which makes it harder for working families to get by. These two bills together don’t help North Carolina’s economy and distract from the real issues that must be addressed: closing a jobs deficit, spreading prosperity more evenly across the state, and making sure working families aren’t carrying a heavier tax load than big corporations.

PETITION: Tell WFU leaders to speak out against Islamophobic attacks

In the wake of the tragic murders of three UNC Muslim students, a hate crime and act of terror that has sparked a global outpouring of grief and solidarity with Muslims targeted by acts of hate, we are called upon as people of conscience to stand and act together against all acts of Islamophobia. We are living in an environment in which prejudice and hatred is being whipped up against Islamic doctrine, Muslim individuals or entire groups perceived as Muslims.

We deeply condemn the Islamophobic attack on Imam Khalid Griggs, Associate Chaplain of Muslim Life at Wake Forest University, who had a bucket of urine placed outside his office on Nov 10th, 2014. Wake Forest alumnus Donald Woodsmall, a member of the Clarion Project, an organization founded to promote Islamophobia, has conducted a public campaign against Imam Griggs. He has threatened financial blackmail against Wake Forest University in an effort to force the university to fire Imam Griggs. Code words like “sharia” and “jihad” are used to scare the general public against Imam Griggs and vilify his position at Wake Forest University. But these hate-filled attacks have only served to inspire many Wake Forest students to conduct rallies in support of Imam Griggs and protest against Islamophobia.

Sign the petition to Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch, asking him to continue speaking out against this attack and defend the right of Imam Griggs to be the Associate Chaplain for Muslim Life at WFU.

UNC BOARD OF GOVERNORS: Three centers to be shut down across the state

Last week, the University of North Carolina’s Board of Governors opted to eliminate three academic centers across the state, including one concentrated on poverty and run by controversial law school professor Gene Nichol.

NC Policy Watch's Sarah Ovaska covered the meeting where the Board of Governors voted unanimously to accept recommendations to shut down the Center for Biodiversity at East Carolina University, the Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change at N.C. Central University and the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Friday’s meeting also included a vote to allow campuses to raise tuition and fees over the next two years at its campuses, cost increases that range from 2 to 7 percent for in-state students. The resolution passed Friday makes clear that the three centers singled out for closure will be shut down by this summer and negates an effort, largely led by UNC-Chapel Hill faculty, to urge Chancellor Carol Folt to keep the poverty center open.

Ovaska, and N.C. Policy Watch, is continuing to cover the changes in the UNC system. Be on the lookout for an article later this week at

STATE BUDGET: Choices made by Gov. could shape state's economic future

Governor McCrory’s budget is anticipated as early as this week and there will be a great deal at stake in the ensuing debate, including how North Carolina can ensure an infrastructure of opportunity across our state. The choices made in this budget will either allow the state to help rebuild pathways to economic opportunity or continue to reroute badly needed resources to the state’s wealthiest taxpayers and companies.

In recent years, lawmakers failed to prioritize public investments, instead enacting tax cuts that primarily benefit the wealthiest North Carolinians and profitable corporations. The tax giveaways implemented in 2013 will cost the state $1 billion annually. Due to those tax cuts and a slow economic recovery, the state simply doesn’t have enough revenue to make investments that will help grow our economy and promote financial stability for families.

Since the start of the Great Recession, state leaders have made cuts in every department of state government, gravely hurting the quality and efficiency of public services such as public education and health and human services. In recent years, such cuts were made in order to pay for the tax package. Any more cuts to those areas of the budget would only further erode the infrastructure of opportunity. Unfortunately, revenue is coming in below projections in the current fiscal year, leading to a shortfall that must be addressed this spring.

By raising revenue, North Carolina could reinvest in its people and communities, simply by providing adequate funding to the programs that have enabled generations of Tar Heels to work their way to better lives. But it must also be done in a way that doesn't hurt low- and moderate-income families who are already struggling in an economy dominated by low-wage jobs. Reversing the tax cuts passed in the 2013 legislative session would be a smart way to begin fixing North Carolina’s revenue problem.


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