NC JUSTICE NEWS: House Budget Review + Toxic Gun Legislation + Corporate Tax Giveaways

May 20, 2015

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE: Thank you for joining us!

Each year, the North Carolina Justice Center presents its Defenders of Justice Awards to honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions in the fight against poverty in four areas that reflect the scope of the Justice Center’s work – legislative advocacy, policy research and advocacy, litigation, and grassroots empowerment.

Hundreds of our friends and supporters came together this year to celebrate these incredible advocates for North Carolina: Rep. Susan Fisher, Sen. Gladys Robinson, the Center for Responsible Lending, Tom Vitaglione, The UNC Center for Civil Rights, Former Justice Bob Orr, and Ajamu and Rukiya Dillahunt. Click here to see pictures of the evening.

Thank you to our sponsors and everyone who joined us for this special event. See you in 2016!

HOUSE BUDGET: How schools, courts, higher education, taxpayers fare

The House budget continues to ask less from the state’s wealthiest taxpayers and profitable corporations and more from everyday North Carolinians while underinvesting in the foundations of a strong economy.

Like the Governor’s budget released a few months ago, the House budget doesn’t reflect our state’s full potential because of the constraints resulting from lawmakers’ self-imposed tax choices. The proposal fails to reach pre-recession levels of investment, despite six years into the recovery. The result is underinvestment and a failure to adequately address the needs in communities to strengthen the economy for all.

Investments in early childhood, education, job training, health care, and public safety ensure that North Carolina’s communities thrive. While the House budget reflects some of these investments, there are many others—school nurses, affordable housing, professional development for teachers, community economic development—that don’t receive the funding needed to truly make an impact on people’s lives. Click on the links below for an in-depth look at how the budget affects our state:

The House budget makes clear that we still have a long way to go to make sure that our kids are well educated, children from infancy to adolescence have affordable access to high quality early care and afterschool care, pathways to higher education and good paying jobs are built, and ensuring that our infrastructure in communities across the state is sound.

UNEMPLOYMENT: State will pay off debt, but policies may repeat past mistakes

Changes to North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system have hurt the state's jobless workers while leaving the system far weaker than it needs to be for the next recession. Despite an official announcement that the state will pay off the unemployment insurance debt it owed the federal government, current policy is likely to repeat mistakes of the past, leaving harsh benefit cuts for jobless workers in place while cutting taxes for employers – creating another solvency crisis for the system.

During the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers enacted various changes to the state’s unemployment insurance system. Most significantly, they reduced the amount of money recipients receive and the number of weeks they receive it, while also restricting eligibility.

In the short term, this means that most of the burden for debt repayment has been pushed onto jobless workers. Over the long term, such a strategy will fail to create an Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund that is a healthy and viable way of supporting the economy during a downturn. This is because of a failure to ensure adequate employer contributions to the system during good economic times.

While jobless workers today have less help and support despite having lost their jobs through no fault of their own, policymakers made virtually no change in the amount state employers paid into the program through taxes. As a result, the system would not be able to function in a downturn without either future borrowing from the federal government, further cutting payments to jobless workers or raising taxes on employers.

GUN BILL: Legislation would do away with background checks, expands access

The NC Justice Center’s allies at North Carolinians Against Gun Violence are working hard to stop House Bill 562 — the “Second Amendment Affirmation Act” — and are asking for help. The proposal contains a laundry list of bad ideas that will cost lives and make North Carolinians less safe (especially residents of low-income communities). Among other things, the bill would:

  • Do away with our state’s successful background check system for handgun purchases;
  • Prevent doctors from asking patients about guns in writing and from disclosing information about patients’ gun possession to law enforcement;
  • Make several groups of people currently barred by past criminal convictions eligible to get “concealed carry” permits, and
  • Change the penalty for carrying a concealed handgun on private property where guns are banned from a misdemeanor to an infraction punishable by a fine.

Though many prominent newspapers, interest groups and individuals have spoken out against the bill and helped slow its progress, House leaders are expected to renew action on the proposal after the House completes work on the state budget in the next few days. NCGV is asking supporters to contact their lawmakers (as well as Speaker Tim Moore at 919-733-3451 and the House Rules Committee Chairman, Rep. David Lewis, at 919-715-3015) to ask them to oppose the bill.

CORPORATE GIVEAWAYS: Surplus could trigger reduced corporate income tax

There’s been a lot of talk about the revenue surplus that was announced earlier this month, and even worse ideas about why we have it and what to do with it.

The state brought in more money than it anticipated, yet nowhere near enough to meet the needs of a growing state. After deep budget cuts due to the recession and a weak recovery, thanks in part to the 2013 tax plan which limited our ability to make needed investments, we are far from having enough to provide high quality early and K-12 education to our kids, access to higher education and meet the needs of our seniors, communities and infrastructure. The surplus is likely a fluke occurrence because it appears the growth is due mostly to capital gains and business income which we can’t assume will continue in the future.

Unfortunately this likely one-time money is enough to trigger a further reduction in the corporate income tax rate, yet another giveaway to large corporations that will do nothing to help our economy, communities or families in North Carolina. The “corporate rate trigger” was established in law as part of the 2013 tax plan by setting an arbitrary and extremely low bar that if reached would activate further reductions in the corporate tax rate in 2016 (down to 4%) and 2017 (down to 3%). Once fully phased in this is a loss of $500 million each year to our ability to make needed investments through our state budget. The pursuit of this ideology also calls into question the fairness of our tax code. Should corporations be paying a lower tax rate than hard working North Carolinians? No!

As NC State Representatives work out their budget they need to hear from you to tell them to make corporations pay their share and get rid of the triggers that would reduce corporate tax rates even more. Contact your State Representative TODAY to tell him/her: no more corporate giveaways when North Carolina families, schools and communities are still struggling.  

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