NC JUSTICE NEWS: Meet the Staff: Allan Freyer + Moral March + Save the EITC

February 4, 2014

MEET THE STAFF: Allan Freyer, Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center

The Budget & Tax Center’s Allan Freyer grew up in Alabama, a state with a long legacy of big disparities between the rich and poor, black and white, the haves and the have nots. “My parents raised me to care about those disparities and the folks that didn’t have the same benefits that I had,” Allan says of his years in schools that had only recently been desegregated.

That Alabama upbringing would end up informing a career that focused on creating opportunities for individuals who don’t have them, one that began while he was studying political science as a Duke undergrad.

“I felt like the political and policy arena was still the one that has the biggest impact on peoples’ lives,” Allan says. “They offer the biggest opportunity to change things for the better.”

Allan started his professional career on Capitol Hill – at the bottom, in a congressman’s mailroom – working for three different members of Congress in policy and communications. The work honed his interest in economic development, budget, and tax issues. Soon, Allan began to see the connection between the more analytical world of fiscal policy and the resources that can help people in need.

“In the persistently impoverished regions where I grew up, I saw that economic development creates opportunities for people to become everything they’re meant to be,” Allan says. “Racism, inequality, injustice – these things keep people from becoming everything they can. There’s a moral commitment to say everyone should have the opportunity to become what they’re meant to be.”

After moving to North Carolina to pursue his Masters and PhD in Economic Development at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Allan noted the NC Justice Center’s participation in the policy debate following the 2010 election. The funding for his PhD position was cut by the legislature around the time a job opened up with the Budget & Tax Center, making his pursuit of economic opportunity work all that more personal.

“I saw what the legislature was doing,” Allan says. “They were moving the state in the wrong direction and I wanted to do something about it.”

Being part of the Budget & Tax Center has given Allan the opportunity to help push back against the opportunities that were being put at risk by lawmakers, as well as help tell a narrative for North Carolinians about why government matters and why tax cuts won’t solve any problems. Allan describes himself not as a policy wonk but as a policy person who tries to communicate with the public.

2013 was a difficult year at the legislature for the BTC, but Allan notes that due to their efforts, North Carolina still has a corporate and personal income tax. He is also pleased that the new public and private partnership for the Department of Commerce will have much more accountability than originally planned, and that job quality – not simply numbers – has made its way into the conversation about employment in North Carolina.

“Last year all anyone could talk about were number of jobs created,” Allan says. “Yet they were creating jobs in low-wage industries. By end of year, people were covering that.”

This year, the Budget & Tax Center faces another tax fight. Help the BTC continue fighting to return the state budget to pre-recession levels, and ensure a tax code that will provide adequate investments to meet the needs of the future. Make a donation to the NC Justice Center today.

HKonJ: Join us on February 8 for the Moral March on Raleigh

On Saturday, Feb. 8, it’s time to unite for a better North Carolina. Thousands of us from all walks of life who oppose an extreme right-wing vision for the state will gather Feb. 8 for the Moral March on Raleigh.

A broad coalition brought together by the North Carolina NAACP will take the next step in the Moral Monday movement this Saturday. We’re proud to join with our partners and friends from NAACP and other groups across the state in saying “yes” to progress and “no” to taking our state backward.

This Moral March will be a historic event for North Carolina, and we want you to be part of it. We will assemble at 9:30 a.m. at Shaw University and march on the capital at 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 8. You can RSVP on Facebook here.

Don’t miss this critically important opportunity to unite and send a message: we’re moving forward, and we’re doing so together.

INEQUALITY FOR ALL: Rescheduled screening of documentary in Raleigh

Join us for a free, rescheduled screening of Inequality for All, a new documentary addressing widening income inequality in the United States presented by American economist and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

In this timely and entertaining documentary, noted economic policy expert Reich takes on the enormous question of what has been happening to our economy. He distills the story through the lens of widening income inequality—currently at historic highs—and explores what effects this increasing gap has not only on our economy but our democracy itself.

Entry to the event is free but registration is required as space is limited. Due to last week's snowstorm, the event has been rescheduled for Tuesday, February 18, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at William Peace University's Browne-McPherson Music Building in Raleigh.

SAVE THE EITC: The last time North Carolinians can receive this vital credit

Last week, on January 31st, we celebrated Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day, a time to learn and share understanding about the many benefits of this important anti-poverty tool. As we are all gathering our W-2 forms to ready for tax preparation, it is important to remember that this is the last time that North Carolinians will be able to receive the state EITC.

In 2013, North Carolina lawmakers gave our state the dubious designation of becoming the first state ever to let the state EITC expire, resulting in a tax increase for over 900,000 working families in North Carolina, including 64,000 military families. By letting the EITC expire, the state legislature disregarded evidence that it is one of the most effective tools to combat poverty. In addition, the EITC:

  • •    is one of the best ways to combat child poverty, contributing to better child outcomes including improved school achievement and higher future earnings in adulthood;
  • •    supports workers as they earn low wages and seek career mobility;
  • •    and addresses the upside-down nature of our tax system that was made worse with the final tax plan that let North Carolina’s EITC expire.

This is the last year that the state EITC will be able to help over 900,000 North Carolinians get by day-to-day by helping to pay for housing, food, child care, and other essential goods and services. Take Action! Call or email your state legislator and tell them to reinstate the EITC.

HOME TO ME: New video in immigrant series profiles Lao business owner

The NC Justice Center released its second video last week as part of the new “Home to Me: Immigrant Stories from NC” series, which highlights the lives of North Carolina immigrants and their families. The series offers an opportunity to explore the challenges some immigrants face in our state, the importance of immigration reform, and how North Carolina has become home to thousands of people from all over the world.

This month’s video features Sai Kham, a restaurant owner in Charlotte who emigrated to the U.S. from Laos in 1987. His journey to the country was tumultuous, after having first moved to Thailand when he was 14, followed by a stay in a refugee camp before being brought to the U.S. by his aunt and uncle.

Sai arrived in Charlotte with only a dictionary to his name, after having given away all of his other possessions in the Thai refugee camp. “I think America is just like in the movies,” Sai said. “They are going to have everything for you.”

Sai now runs the Pho Daravan Restaurant in Charlotte. “Everywhere you go, you have to work in this country,” he said. Despite the challenge of running a business and staying afloat financially, Sai said he’s grateful to be living in the U.S. after having grown up among war and struggle.

“You are living in a good land,” Sai said.

Viewers are encouraged to share “Home to Me” stories on social media to demonstrate how immigrants are part of the fabric of our state and to highlight the need for policies that respect the humanity of all of our neighbors. "Home to Me" offers North Carolinians a chance to engage in dialogue about the future of our state and our economy, address questions of global justice and local ties, overcome the “Us versus Them” divisiveness of past immigration debates, and advance public policies that move us forward together.

DEFENDERS OF JUSTICE AWARDS: Make your nomination today

Mark your calendars!  This year’s Defenders of Justice (DOJ) Awards will be held on Tuesday, April 22, at the William and Ida Friday Center in Chapel Hill.

The DOJ Awards are given by the Justice Center to honor individuals or organizations that are making significant contributions in the following areas: Litigation; Research and Policy Development; Public Policy Advocacy and Grassroots Empowerment. Recipients will be honored at our annual event in the spring.

Our deadline for nominees has been extended! Eligible nominees must be based in North Carolina. If you would like to nominate an individual or organization in one of the following categories, please complete this nomination form and return to Melissa Wiggins at no later than February 7, 2014:

  • Litigation – Representing clients in high-impact cases that protect and expand the rights of low-income groups and individuals.
  • Policy Research and Advocacy - Conducting and disseminating research and development alternatives to existing policy.
  • Legislative Advocacy – Working with traditionally underrepresented populations to define and shape public policies.
  • Grassroots Empowerment - Developing programs designed to help community based organizations or individuals be leaders within their own communities. These organizations or individuals will have examples of programs that have been successful.

Stay tuned for more details on the Defenders of Justice Awards over the next few months.

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