JOB CREATION: Unemployment rate demands state action
County jobless numbers released last week show that 37 NC counties have unemployment rates above 10 percent.
With many communities struggling, Governor Perdue has proposed a new program to encourage employers to add jobs and hire low-income workers. The JobBoost program is modeled after the TANF Emergency Fund, a successful subsidized job program that ran in North Carolina from January to September 2010 and created more than 1,000 jobs. JobBoost will provide a subsidy to employers who hire new workers who qualify for TANF, the financial assistance program for low-income families. These temporary jobs give workers an opportunity to build skills and connections that may lead to permanent jobs in the future. The program will use federal and foundation dollars to support the creation of an estimated 1,000 jobs.
The Justice Center’s NC Budget & Tax Center suggested the state create such a subsidized job program back in May, so we’re excited to see the governor get on board. The effectiveness of these programs has been demonstrated time and again, and launching one soon would be a smart investment for North Carolina.
INSURANCE & FAIR ELECTIONS: The benefits for voter-loyal officials
NC’s Department of Insurance got a shout-out from President Obama last week. The president discussed the new health reform law with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, and he explained that, contrary to Stewart’s assertion, "[W]e have empowered state insurance commissioners to review the rate hikes that are taking place in states. And some states, like North Carolina, they’ve already used it and rolled back premium increases by 25 percent."
State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin deserves kudos for engaging in tough negotiations with state insurers and securing refunds for about 215,000 policyholders to the tune of $155.8 million. And let’s not forget that, in the last election, the insurance commissioner candidates chose to raise small contributions from registered voters and agreed to spending limits so they can receive money from a public fund. A NC Voters for Clean Elections study of the insurance commissioner’s race found that the percentage of campaign money from regulated industries dropped from 66% in 2004 to less than 5% in 2008.
And that’s how you get public officials whose primary concern is serving the public.
LOTTERY: Oversight committee has cause for concern
North Carolina’s Lottery Oversight Committee, which keeps the legislature informed about how the lottery is doing, met last week in Raleigh, and its members expressed concern about the decrease in the percentage of lottery proceeds going to schools. They expect to issue a report by the end of the year.
When the lottery first started, education received 35 cents of every dollar, a formula written into state law. That dropped to 29 cents last year and is expected to be 30 cents this year. In addition, North Carolina used $35 million in lottery money to pay Medicaid bills last year. Both of these issues have committee members worried about preserving the lottery’s commitment to providing funds to education.
Creating a lottery was bad public policy from the start. It’s a regressive way to raise money. Plus, making sure that money adds to, instead of replaces, General Fund spending for education is virtually impossible. Maybe the oversight committee can put the brakes on erosion of lottery funds for education.
STATE BUDGET: Join us for a legislative brieing near you
Join the Justice Center and United Way of NC for a legislative briefing in preparation for the upcoming session of the General Assembly. The briefings will cover the state budget, the impact of the economic on working families, and the status of a range of programs important to the well-being of families, including the EITC, children's health insurance and child-care subsidies.
PUBLIC EDUCATION: Two upcoming events
The Great Schools in Wake Coalition is holding a forum this Saturday entitled, "Beyond Appreciating Diversity: Understanding the Tangible and Intangible Benefits of Integrated Schools." Speakers and participants will examine the psychological, academic and long-term benefits for all students of diverse schools.
On Friday, November 12, the NC Partnership for Educational Opportunity is holding a summit on school suspension. "Safe Schools, Fair Schools: A Community Dialogue about School Suspensions in North Carolina" is a one-day gathering examining the effect of out-of-school suspensions on students, schools and communities in North Carolina.
ESTATE TAX: Addressing the nation's past injustices
The estate tax brings in much-needed revenue to federal and state governments, which is important. But it’s also an instrument of economic and racial justice in a time of almost unprecedented wealth disparity.
The United States has made some progress in narrowing the earnings gap (African-Americans earn 62 cents for every dollar of white income; Latinos earn 68 cents). The wealth gap is still enormous. The Justice Center’s Ajamu Dillahunt and United for a Fair Economy’s Brian Miller explained the situation in a recent opinion piece:
“It’s fairly clear why wealth disparities are so much greater than disparities of income. Unlike income, wealth transfers from generation to generation. As a result, when we look at wealth disparities, we’re not only looking at the injustices and inequalities of today, but we’re also looking at the injustices and inequalities of previous generations carried forward with interest.”
The wealthiest 20% of American households have 84% of the wealth in the nation, while the poorest 20% of households – representing 120 million Americans – hold a mere 0.3 percent.
The estate tax passed with strong bipartisan support back in 1916, survived the rise of economic conservatism in the 1920s, became a mainstay of the federal revenue system in the 1930s, and persisted for nearly a century with broad-based support. Perhaps if Americans were awakened to the reality of current wealth disparity in the US—along with the economic and racial injustice that go hand-in-hand with extreme wealth disparity—the future of the estate tax would be more secure.