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Category: In the Headlines

Sep
24
2015

Pope Foundation will award $200,000 to arts and human services organizations

From the John William Pope Foundation September 23, 2015 RALEIGH – The John William Pope Foundation has announced a new competitive grant initiative that will award two $100,000 grants to North Carolina nonprofits.  Organizations can apply for the Joy Pope Memorial Grant in the Arts and the Joy Pope Memorial Grant in Human Services until October 30. This is the first competitive grant program the foundation has offered. “Traditionally, the Pope Foundation has given to arts and human services in the Triangle region.  But we know there are innovative approaches to pressing needs outside of our regional scope,” said foundation president John Hood. “Through this competitive grant process we hope to bring awareness to underserved causes and model potential solutions and new ideas.” The grants are one-time gifts and will be issued for projects that will be completed in 2016. Applicants should be IRS compliant non-profits, based in North Carolina. New, former and existing foundation grantees are all welcome to apply. The foundation will accept traditional fall grant applications concurrently.  For more information, including application instructions for all foundation grants, visit www.jwpf.org. “Our goal has always been to benefit the greatest number of people possible through our giving.  As North Carolina grows and continues to create jobs, old challenges will continue,” said foundation chairman Art Pope. “My mother’s legacy provides a wonderful guiding example for our arts and humanitarian grants, so we thought it was appropriate to name the award in her honor.” Joy Pope was the wife of the late entrepreneur and philanthropist John William Pope and the mother of foundation chairman Art Pope.  She was a dedicated patron of arts and human service organizations and served as president of the foundation from 1986-1992.  The John William Pope Foundation works to improve the well being of citizens in North Carolina and the nation through the advancement of individual freedom and personal responsibility. The foundation’s giving has totaled more than $100 million since its founding, primarily directed to organizations in North Carolina. ###
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Sep
9
2015

Library in Vance County installs bilingual Spanish early literacy stations with Pope Foundation support

From the John William Pope Foundation September 9, 2015 RALEIGH — With recent grant support from the John William Pope Foundation, the H. Leslie Memorial Library in Vance County has added new technology to the youth services area to their Henderson, N.C. facility.  The new installation features additional early literacy stations that offer over 70 educational software programs in several curricular areas.  Several of the station’s programs are offered in Spanish, making the bilingual offering beneficial to the entire family. The official press release can be read online at The Daily Dispatch: http://www.hendersondispatch.com/homepage/check-it-out-news-from-the-perry-memorial-library/article_d6f56bee-6b76-52e5-9f65-699bb288b06b.html The Pope Foundation receives its support from the Pope family, owner and operator of the Henderson, North Carolina-based company Variety Wholesalers, Inc. For more information about the Perry Memorial Library, visit their website here.
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Aug
22
2015

Pope Foundation makes emergency grants to Raleigh-area animal shelters

From the John William Pope Foundation August 20, 2015 RALEIGH, N.C. — The Pope Foundation has issued two emergency grants to local animal rescues.  Safe Haven for Cats in Raleigh and the Vance County Animal Shelter in Henderson were each awarded $1,000 to aid with pressing issues. “Both Safe Haven Rescue and Vance County Animal Shelter are doing their respective parts to keep communities clean and safe by providing shelter and care for animals that would otherwise be neglected or endangered.” said Joyce Pope, vice president of the John William Pope Foundation.  “Furthermore, their work to care for and rehabilitate abandoned and abused animals adds important value to our society and underscores how important it is to care for all community members, great and small.” Safe Haven for Cats took 34 cats into their facility after a July animal hoarding case that removed over 150 animals from a Chatham County home. The shelter has run out of space and resources during the summer months when they are typically already crowded.  Vance County Animal Shelter has also been struggling.  Their shelter has not been updated since it was built 40 years ago, and is regularly well over capacity.  This spring they received a five-acre land donation and are working to raise the funds to update their existing space. The Pope Foundation receives its support from the Pope family, owner and operator of the Henderson, North Carolina-based company Variety Wholesalers, Inc.  Art Pope is chairman of the foundation.  For more information, visit www.jwpf.org.   ###
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Jun
4
2015

The Tax-Cut Payoff in Carolina

  Wall Street Journal Columnist Stephen Moore: Even with lower rates, tax revenues have increased 6% this year, and the state has a $400 million budget surplus. Published June 3, 2015  - Source: Wall Street Journal Four years ago North Carolina’s unemployment rate was above 10% and the state still bore the effects of its battering in the recession. Many rural towns faced jobless rates of more than 20%. But in 2013 a combination of the biggest tax-rate reductions in the state’s history and a gutsy but controversial unemployment-insurance reform supercharged the state’s economy and has even helped finance budget surpluses. As Wells Fargo’s Economics Group recently put it: “North Carolina’s economy has shifted into high gear. Hiring has picked up across nearly every industry.” The tax cut slashed the state’s top personal income-tax rate to 5.75%, near the regional average, from 7.75%, which had been the highest in the South. The corporate tax rate was cut to 5% from 6.9%. The estate tax was eliminated. Next came the novel tough-love unemployment-insurance reforms. The state became the first in the nation to reject “free” federal payments for extended unemployment benefits and reduce the weeks of benefits to 20 from 26. The maximum weekly dollar amount of payments, $535, which had been among the highest in the nation, was trimmed to a maximum of $350 a week. As a result, tens of thousands of Carolinians left the unemployment rolls. In an interview at the governor’s mansion, Gov. Pat McCrory tells me that when he took office in January 2013 he looked at the data and knew “we couldn’t stay on the course we were on. We had the highest unemployment benefits and yet at the same time businesses were routinely complaining they couldn’t find workers until benefits ran out. We heard a lot of stories of workers waiting until benefits ran out before going back to work.” In sum, the state was paying people not to work. While these measures were passing the legislature, the state capital boiled over with rancorous political rallies, called Moral Mondays, designed to block the “cruel” GOP agenda. Rev. William Barber II, one of the protest organizers, lambasted Republicans for making the Tar Heel State a “crucible of extremism and injustice.” The national media piled on with claims that the Republican agenda cut taxes for the rich while slashing benefits for the poor. Then a funny thing happened. After a few months, the unemployment rate started to decline rapidly and job growth climbed. Not just a little. Nearly 200,000 jobs have been added since 2013 and the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.5% from 7.9%. There is a debate about how many of North Carolina’s unemployed got jobs and how many dropped out of the workforce or moved to another state. But the job market is vastly improved and people didn’t go hungry in the streets. On the Tax Foundation index of business conditions, North Carolina has been catapulted to 16th from a dismal 44th since 2013. The most recent news will make many other governors jealous. The state didn’t take the extra federal benefits—which require repayments later to the feds—and it cut the weekly benefits. So the state government has been able to pay back $2.8 billion in unemployment-insurance money owed to the feds, and it now has a trust-fund surplus. This means it will be able to provide employers with at least $500 million in cuts from the state and federal unemployment tax on payroll over 18 months. This comes at a time when other states are having to raise payroll taxes to pay off the loans for the rich benefits they doled out in the recession and its aftermath. The lesson: Handouts from the feds are never free. An even bigger surprise—even to supporters—is the tax cut’s impact on revenue. Even with lower rates, tax revenues are up about 6% this year according to the state budget office. On May 6, Gov. McCrory announced that the state has a budget surplus of $400 million while many other states are scrambling to fill gaps. This is the opposite of what has happened in Kansas, where jobs have been created but revenues have fallen since the top personal income-tax rate was cut from 6.45% in 2012 to 4.6% today and the income tax for small business owners who file as individuals has been eliminated. North Carolina’s former budget director, Art Pope, says one difference between the two states is that “we cut spending too. Kansas didn’t.” The story gets better. Because North Carolina built in a trigger mechanism that applies excess revenues to corporate-rate cuts, the business tax has fallen to 5% from 6.9%, and next year it drops to 4%. You won’t hear much about this in national news media, where the preferred story line is that tax cuts don’t work because they were followed by budget deficits in Kansas. In North Carolina, policies to reduce taxes and stop paying people for not working have created jobs and surpluses. Mr. Pope says: “I wish people criticizing Kansas would look at what’s happened here.” Mr. Moore is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.  
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May
12
2015

Art Pope says tax cuts are aimed at long-term growth, not a one-year budget surplus

On Sunday, May 10, the News & Observer covered the recent North Carolina budget surplus in their special ‘Under the Dome’ Sunday Section.  Former state budget director Art Pope (Chairman and CEO of Variety Wholesalers and Chairman of the John William Pope Foundation) provided his thoughts. April surprise – budget gains as tax rates cut Former state budget director Art Pope says tax cuts are aimed at long-term growth, not a one-year budget surplus. Ethan Hyman | J. Andrew Curliss The people who watch the state budget like to talk at this time of year about the April “surprise,” the moment (usually in May) when April tax collections are counted and weighed against the official forecast in an exercise that produces certainty about the state of the state’s finances. The new numbers, if off too much, can lead to scrambling across state government in the final weeks of the budget year, which closes on June 30. It can also alter how lawmakers approach writing the next budget, a process already underway for the spending plan that takes effect on July 1. But the news last week that North Carolina will have a $400 million surplus in the current budget year – and about $600 million more for the next – generated responses from Republicans and Democrats that weren’t much of a surprise. Republicans who are in charge were giddy, emphasizing that the sky isn’t falling and their policies are working. Democrats furrowed their brows, saying the extra money came from middle-class folks who need a break. There was some truth – and shading – from both sides. This year’s final forecast was especially viewed through partisan lenses: It’s a measure of the Republican-led tax overhaul, which passed in 2013 but was in effect for the 2014 tax year. The overhaul included the elimination of a tiered income tax system with rates as high as 7.75 percent in favor of a flat, 5.8 percent income tax on all. (It’s at 5.75 percent for the current year.) Corporate tax rates were reduced. The standard deduction and a child tax credit were increased. But it wasn’t just tax cuts or breaks. Lawmakers broadened what is taxed (extending the sales tax to capture certain items and services) and eliminated certain deductions and exemptions that had lowered many taxpayers’ tax bills. At one point in the tax overhaul debate, mortgage interest and charitable deductions were on the chopping block. Those survived. A deduction for high medical expenses didn’t. An exemption on $50,000 in business income also went away. How all those changes would shake out has been a major focus of the state’s political, government and business communities – and added plenty of uncertainty for the budget forecasters. Views on surplus In reacting to the news of a surplus, some Republicans pointed to the tax cuts. The speaker of the House, Tim Moore, said in a statement: “The lower, flat personal income tax rate has spurred economic growth and job creation that in turn has provided North Carolina with a budget surplus.” One of this budget’s key architects was Art Pope, a Raleigh businessman and supporter of Republican causes who was state budget director until last fall. He’s watched closely even after returning to private life. “Let me just clarify or emphasize one thing right now,” Pope told Dome in an interview after the surplus was announced. “There was never any expectation that tax cuts would pay for themselves during the very next fiscal year, or the next two fiscal years,” he said. “In the long term Gov. (Pat) McCrory and the legislature believes – and I believe – that reducing taxes will allow for more economic growth as people keep more of their hard-earned dollars and as businesses and employers keep more of their hard-earned dollars and reinvest them.” But the surplus is not because of the tax cuts, Pope said. “I was never in a single meeting where we said if we reduce the corporate tax rate or the personal tax rate by X percent then next year revenue will grow by Y percent,” Pope said. “There never was any prediction there. Long term, yes. Short term, or the fiscal year, no.” And that, Pope said, “is not what happened.” Democrats have expressed concern that seniors who lost a medical deduction and small business owners who lost the income exemption fueled the surplus. The Senate’s Democratic leader, Dan Blue, described the surplus in a statement as a “so-called budget surplus.” “Seniors, small businesses and middle-class families across North Carolina got slammed on Tax Day,” Blue said. But the forecasters had long ago made assumptions about those changes and the effect on the budget. To use a cliche, those changes – which affected millions in tax receipts – were already “baked in.” What happened, according to interviews with economists, forecasters and legislative staffers, was that personal incomes were more robust than anticipated. The economy is good, here and in other states. More people are working – the state added 50,000 jobs in 2014 – and paying taxes. A state report notes that capital gains from stock and real estate sales were a part of the growth. Forecasters had been cautious all along, predicting a shortfall as recently as February. But as tax returns came in, that melted away. The result in context It is worth noting that the forecast for an extra $400 million is on a $21 billion budget – a miss of about 2 percent. Pope said it’s now clear that predictions by Democrats in 2013 of dire results, of major shortfalls below what was budgeted and would hamstring the state, were wrong. He said he believes, on the broad scale, that the surplus is most likely a result of how people’s paychecks were handled. For 2014, the state reset the tables that determine how much tax money is withheld from taxpayers’ check. The new withholding schedules were set up with a goal of seeing a pure balance – aiming for an outcome of no refunds and no one writing a check to the state on April 15. Workers saw a bit more in their paychecks each week as a result, and received much less money in refunds in the tax season that ended on April 15. In previous years, the state had been issuing lots of refunds. “Good public policy and fairness to taxpayers is not to ask them to give free loans to the government by overpaying their taxes,” Pope said. Then, personal incomes performed better than expected, and that meant more tax money for the state. “The surplus is really just a function of a forecast that was pretty close to predicting how this would all shake out,” Pope said. “And it happened to be off – on the good side – by a little bit.” UNDERSTANDING A SURPLUS State officials announced a $400 million surplus for the current budget year, which ends June 30. Dome breaks it down. Fiscal memo A consensus of legislative and administration staff says the surplus is the result of: ▪ Caution: All previous forecasts were “very cautious,” and left room for a positive change. ▪ Growth: April payments to the state were up 15 percent to 20 percent, well above expectations. The increase was driven by business income, often paid as personal income tax, and gains from stock and real estate. ▪ Refund decline: More accurate withholding tables (see related story) reduced refunds to taxpayers. Refunds were down much more than an expected 35 percent, yielding about $357 million in additional income tax collections than were forecast. Steep refund decline The refund decline, tied to the withholding tables change, was a big driver. Officials say the dropoff in refunds was “more than double the biggest year-over-year decline” going back 25 years. 2014 No. refunds issued: 2.3 million Refunds amount: $1.2 billion 2015 No. refunds issued: 1.8 million (down 22 percent) Refunds amount: $591.1 million (down 51 percent) Tax overhaul changes Some paid more in income taxes as a result of the 2013 tax overhaul. The majority paid less. Here’s how 2014 tax season shaped up for taxpayers: Taxes decreased: 55 percent to 60 percent Taxes increased: 30 percent to 35 percent Little or no change: 10 percent to 15 percent The forecast The updated forecast shows a budget for 2014-15 that misses the original forecast by about 2 percent. Here’s how much the forecast missed in recent budget years, which run from July 1 to June 30: 2014-15: +1.9% (May forecast) 2013-14: –2.2% 2012-13: +2.2% 2011-12: +2.0% 2010-11: +0.9% 2009-10: –1.6% Sources: General Assembly Fiscal Research Division, Office of State Budget and Management, N.C. Department of Revenue Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/politics-columns-blogs/under-the-dome/article20578353.html#storylink=cpy  
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