Thanks to NC’s budget, unemployment back on the rise


After the 2010 election cycle, the republicans took over the majority in the house and senate.  During their campaigns they made lots of promises about creating jobs.  In practice they did the opposite.  The big item during the session was the state budget and dealing with the shortfall.  It seemed like from the beginning, they were more focused on cutting out state into the past than they were about creating jobs and moving our state forward.

In fact, it seemed like at every opportunity during the budget debate, they did more to hurt jobs.  They attacked tax credits like the state eitc and the child care credit, that encourage low-income families to work.  They seemed to want to cut every environmental program and had their hearts set on defunding Planned Parenthood.  They wanted to increase rates on small finance loans, and roll back the financial protections the state has become known for.  With all this, it seemed they were more concerned with turning back time and less concerned with creating jobs for the future.

What they did do was ignore calls to take a balance approach to the budget, and chose to make severe cuts rather than some cuts and increased revenues.  The latest unemployment numbers begin to show that.  All the cuts in state government meant cutting lots of jobs or eliminating positions that had yet to be filled.  As a result, there were over 10 thousand fewer jobs available in June.  This may be only the beginning as more agencies make cuts going forward, more jobs will have to be cut.

I fail to see how they delivered on promises of job creation, but see plenty of evidence of eliminating jobs.  They seemed more focused on undoing the work of the past and this holds an eerie resemblance to how republicans in D.C. handled their new-found power.  Less about solving problems and more about a undoing the past.

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Unhappy New Year


This post was written by Kevin Rogers and is cross post from www.actionnc.org

 

What does July 1st mean to you? Well, since it’s the start of the new fiscal year for the government, and North Carolina has cut billions of dollars from the budget, it means you get less government services.

Yay!

Among the thousands of cuts to vital government services that you will not see directly because they are behind the scenes, there are a number of cuts that you will see, and feel, directly.

The N&O has a whole article about it today.  Highlights include:

  • The state Capitol will now be closed on Sundays.
  • The State Archives and State Library Building is cutting its Saturday hours from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. (instead of 5 p.m.)
  • Visitor parking rates at the Downtown State Government Complex will double from $1 to $2. Lost tickets will now cost $16 instead of $8.
  • The N.C. Transportation Museum will begin charging $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military, and $6 for children under 12. In the past, visitors paid only for rides which cost $5 or $6. The new rates will include the rides.
  • Thomas Wolfe House in Asheville will raise the price of a tour from $3 to $5 for an adult, and from $1 to $2 for a student.
  • The Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City will be closed on Sundays.
  • The N. C. Zoo in Asheboro is raising the price of tickets by $2. Children will pay $8, adults will pay $12 and seniors and students will pay $10. A one-year membership increases by $10.

These, of course, are trivial cuts compared the drastic cuts we’ve seen in education, transportation, and social service funding.

But don’t dispair, there is some good news – your sales tax will drop 1%!

Good thing – that extra 1% sales tax is predicted to cost the average North Carolinian $107 a year.  Whew!  That’s totally worth firing hundreds of teachers, delaying critical infrastructure repair, and giving huge tax breaks to corporations.

We’re sure that will create lots of jobs, too.  Oh… maybe not.

Can the Tea Party hold its line in the sand on the Debt Ceiling?


Unless you have chosen to not watch the news over the last several months you know that there is some fierce debate happening in Washington about the debt ceiling.  In a nutshell, if we don’t raise the debt ceiling we run the risk of not being able to pay our bills as a country, ruin our credit rating, and a myriad of other bad things depending on who you ask.  This USA Today article does a good job of explaining the various points of view.

During the midterm election season, the tea party slot of candidates  all drew a hard-line when it came to the debt ceiling. They would not vote to raise the debt ceiling at all, no questions asked.  Once they got in office the line was softened a bit, once they realized that there pretty much would be no option other than to raise it.  The new line became they would not vote to raise it unless it came it was partnered with serious spending cuts that would begin to reduce our national debt over the next 10 years.  That sounds great and all, but why risk hurting our credit rating and the country’s ability to do business over spending cuts.  To me it makes more sense to ensure our rating is protected, and the world markets are stable, and then engage in some serious talks about getting our debt under control.

Simply cutting our way out of debt is not the simple solution to the problem. Any tax cuts also have to be paired with new revenues.  It doesn’t matter how much we cut if we aren’t also raising new money.  Without raising new money, we will always have a need to borrow no matter how much gets cut.  The problem is that no one on the republican or tea party side is willing talk about new revenues, a cuts only approach is all they are willing to talk about.  We recently had this same battle here in NC and the resulting budget is going to be devastating to this state.  Why can’t republicans and tea party politicians see this?  Is it really about holding the line on a political struggle?

Some tea party members are still holding the original line.  They want a budget that is limited by the current debt ceiling or nothing else.  A prime example of this is freshman Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin.  He has clearly laid out his position here, and is sticking with it.  So much so that is he holding up Senate business.  He has pledged to hold up business by blocking all unanimous consent calls.  A lot of what the Senate does is based on these unanimous consent calls to bring something up for a vote.  In a moment of protecting the line in the sand, he wants to hold up all Senate business until he gets what he wants.

My take on the issue is that adding more debt is a bad thing, but protecting our countries credibility is more important.  No matter how you feel about debt or spending, protecting the country should come first.  Then we can have serious conversations about what is needed to get the debt under control.  But once these conversations get started both sides need to negotiate in good faith, understanding that it will take both cuts and new revenues to solve the problem.  The problem isn’t just about the eliminating debt, it is also about reducing the need to borrow.  Once politicians figure that out maybe we can make some progress and stop holding party lines for the sake of winning a power struggle.  They need to remember this isn’t about them, but rather the people they have been voted in by to serve.

Does NC’s new leadership care about the poor?


After the 2010 mid-term elections the NC General Assembly changed hands for the first time since reconstruction.  With Republicans now having control, they pledged they would help create jobs and create no new taxes.  It seems that they have forgotten these pledges, or it may be that like most politicians, they said what they needed to get elected so they could carry out their own agenda.  Whatever the case may be, their real agenda is starting to show.  The budget they did in the house and more so in the senate has little to no job creation in it.  In fact, because they have chosen to not take a balanced approach to the budget, all the cuts they are making are adding up to thousands of job losses.  That doesn’t sound like job creation to me.

The troubling thing to me is that they seem to want to balance the budget and govern on the backs of the working poor.  It started in the house where they decided they wanted to end the refund-ability of the State EITC.  If you are unfamiliar the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal program meant to help families with lower-income offset some of their tax burden and provide a way to get out of poverty.  NC is one of the states that has enacted a state version of this, that simply put, is a percentage of the filers federal EITC.  Low income families in NC pay a higher portion of their income to taxes because our system is so out of wack.  The average State EITC is about $172, and while that isn’t a lot of money it goes along way to help families living paycheck to paycheck.  In fact, these funds are a direct stimulant to the economy since the majority of these funds are spent directly into local businesses.

Regardless of what these dollars mean to families and the economy, they wanted to take away the refund portion.  Due to some great work by various groups this failed in the House.  It was not a much celebrated victory, because we knew the Senate was likely to take it up as well.  Man, did they ever.  The Senate has now gone a step further.  They are talking about cutting the whole State EITC as well as the Child and Dependent Care tax Credit.  So now, not only do they want to take away a credit that stimulates the economy and helps families make ends meet, they also want to take away a much-needed aid to families to help cover the high cost of child care.  What kind of message does this send to the people of this state.  We want you to take low paying jobs, because we will not work to create more jobs, and we will cut every program designed to help you.

About 50% of those benefiting from the State EITC make between 7 and 12 thousand dollars a year.  Can you imagine trying to pay for food, clothes, transportation, housing, and child care on that salary?  Well a large number of families in this state don’t have to imagine because it is a reality.  These are the families that make this state run, and yet the new leadership wants to cut the tax programs that are designed to offset the tax burden of these families, affectively raising taxes on lower-income families.

I thought the new leadership was supposed to create jobs and create no new tax increases.  They want to cut the corporate tax, but raise taxes on the working class folks of this state.  Their true agenda is coming out and the message from leadership is don’t be poor in this state, because we won’t care!