Civitas Review

Senate Bill Allows Local Sales Tax Hike for Ed Expands Corporate Welfare


In a new "committee substitute" bill introduced by the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, the state would authorize local governments to raise their sales taxes by 1/2 cent to fund education (but create a cap on the local tax rate), and a new corporate welfare program would be created. A summary on the local sales tax provision from WRAL:

The legislation, unveiled as a Senate substitute in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, would allow counties to raise sales taxes by a half-cent, rather than a quarter-cent, to pay for education funding. It would cap the local rate at a maximum of 2.5 percent, which, when added to the current state sales tax of 4.75 percent, would mean a maximum sales tax of 7.25 percent in any county.

Counties would still need to obtain voter approval for any increase.

However, the proposal require counties seeking an increase to raise their local rate all the way to 2.5 percent, disallowing counties currently at 2 percent from seeking a smaller quarter-cent increase. It would also require counties to use all new revenue generated by a hike for either education needs or transportation needs but not both.

Counties would not be allowed to have a quarter-cent sales tax for transportation and another quarter-cent for schools. If they have or institute a sales surtax for schools, they would have to repeal it or allow it to expire before going to voters for a new increase for transportation needs.

That change would most immediately affect Mecklenburg County, where commissioners are backing a quarter-cent sales tax increase on the ballot this fall. The money would mostly go to supplement teacher salaries. But the county would have to scuttle that plan, since it has already enacted a half-cent transit tax, bringing it to the cap of 2.5 percent.

It could also affect Wake County, where Democratic commissioners have proposed a quarter-cent sales tax increase to pay for teacher raises. The county Board of Commissioners is expected to vote Aug. 4 on whether to put the referendum on the ballot in November.

Also included in the bill is an expansion of the state's corporate welfare efforts. It creates a new "Job Catalyst Fund" which, similar to other already existing funds, would award taxpayer dollars to select businesses meeting certain "job creation" requirements. Unfortunately, there is no provision to track whether the workers hired by these new firms are actually coming from the ranks of the unemployed and thus creating new jobs, or merely being hired away from their current jobs in which case there wouldn't be "new" jobs being created but just a shift in the mix of jobs toward the politically-privileged company. And there is also no way to determine the loss of jobs and investment suffered by those businesses being placed at a competitive disadvantage, or the jobs never created because tax rates remain higher than they otherwise would be without the corporate welfare programs.

Moreover, the bill would expand the eligibility for the JMAC (Job Maintenance and Capital Development) fund, and also increase funding for the JDIG (Job Development Investment Grant) fund. Both of these programs are corporate welfare schemes that have been in place for several years.

NCSU Students Travel to Forsyth County to Advocate for Early Voting Site at WSSU


North Carolina's 100 county board of elections are in the process of making one-stop early voting site selections for the November election.

This article looks at Forsyth County's process and reports that three NC State Students drove all the way from Raleigh to voice their support for the Anderson Center at Winston-Salem State University to be used as a one-stop site. The Anderson Center was used for early voting in 2010 in Forsyth County.

While the Winston-Salem Journal describes NC PIRG as non-partisan campaign to engage young voters, it is really a liberal advocacy group. In 2004 NC PIRG was investigated for voter registration fraud.

While James Alexander of NCSU (Raleigh NC) told the Forsyth County Board (Winston-Salem NC) that many students don't have cars and not allowing early voting sites on campus was disenfranchising the student vote, the Forsyth Board of Elections Chairman, Ken Raymond, indicated that he focused on geography. According to the WSJ, Raymond said, “The only thing that I was trying to achieve was to have the sites spread out throughout the county.”

All local boards must submit a one-stop voting plan to the State Board of Elections no later than 07/31/2014.

NC should look to DC charters


If you 're a fan of charter schools you should be watching what's going on in Washington DC.

Last week the Washington Post ran a very interesting article on DC principals going door-to-door to tout the benefits of a public school education.  What prompted  principals to take to the streets?  Numbers and test results. Charters enroll 44 percent of  all DC students. However, charter test scores are also impressive. The academic gains of charter schools are even better than the fast-improving DC public schools which lead the nation in academic gains.

What to make of all this news? Heritage's Lindsay Burke did a follow up on the Post story on Heritage's blog, the Daily Signal. Burke addressed the impact of all this activity and said:

It's good schools increasingly must compete for students. Competition encourages schools to create safe learning environment that are desirable to parents and perform academically. . . Not only does the research suggest school leaders themselves respond to competitive pressure, but that response appears to manifest in positive gains for students who remain in traditional public schools.

Let's hope educators and those who working on The Charter School Modification Bill  (SB-793)  are watching.

'Raise the Age' Looks Dead … for Now


HB 725 “Raise the Age” may be dead for this year, but don’t be surprised if we see it again. The North Carolina General Assembly website indicates the bill is “held in the Senate Clerk’s Office,” which means the Senate has not even considered the bill for this legislative session. That’s why it looks dead – for now.

HB 725 would raise from 16 to 18 the age at which defendants in misdemeanor cases go directly to an adult court. The bill would also create a committee to oversee the implementation of the law. A version of this bill was introduced in 2012 and was not successful. It was reintroduced in the 2013 session and was still in play during this session. In May it was approved by the House then sent to the Senate Clerk’s Office, where it now languishes.

Civitas has questioned repeatedly why the law needs to be changed. It still seems to us that some 16- and 17-year-olds commit crimes serious enough to be tried in adult court. It looks as if the Senate is also questioning why current law needs to be changed.

Will we see a version of HB 725 in the 2015 General Assembly as well? Its supporters have not been deterred by past failures, so it may well be that they’ll try again next year.

House, Senate Remain Divided on State Budget Talks


More than two weeks into the new fiscal year and the NC House and Senate continue to struggle to come to agreement over how to adjust the second year of the two-year budget passed last year. The main sticking points remain funding for teacher raises and Medicaid. From WRAL:

Senior Budget Chairman Nelson Dollar said House and Senate subcommittees have made substantial progress in resolving differences in several budget areas, but not in education and Health and Human Services – the two most critical areas of dispute.

Dollar, R-Wake, told the committee the two chambers remain divided over teacher and state employee raises, funding for teaching assistants and Medicaid eligibility – the same sticking points that have stalled conference talks for weeks.

He said the House has agreed to offer a 6 percent average raise to teachers, up from 5 percent in its initial proposal. The Senate, he said, has not moved from its 11 percent raise position.

He also said the latest Senate offer, unveiled last Thursday, actually cuts more funding from HHS, rather than less.

The $233 million in Medicaid cuts in the Senate plan, Dollar said, would mean the loss of an additional $400 million in matching federal funds, totaling a $633 million cut to current services.