I sat in the floor earlier this month with my son, sorting out our change jar and talking about each shiny coin. He was surprised by how little a penny’s actually worth and was filled with childhood disdain as he informed me that he couldn’t even buy gum with that little money.
So, imagine how hard it is for me now to try to explain to him that it’s more important to our state legislators to do away with a temporary one cent sales tax that’s been in place since 2009 than it is to save the jobs of teachers and teachers’ assistants, to provide quality early learning programs, or to provide health care to low-income North Carolinians on Medicaid.
Those individual pennies are not going to make much difference for each of us individually, but when added together they could make a big difference for our state’s children.
Rarely will you find a situation when citizens are asking to be taxed, but polls show that 71 percent of North Carolinians support leaving this one-cent sales tax in place. North Carolinians understand the importance of continuing to invest in our state’s future, even if it requires sharing some of the burden now. We know how important these programs are to North Carolina families.
Yet, our lawmakers are refusing to raise revenue from any sources, choosing instead to balance the budget by slashing the programs that families rely upon.
From a legislature that claims it was elected to create jobs comes a budget that will lead to the single largest layoff in state history with at least 26,000 people expected to lose their jobs. The Department of Public Instruction anticipates that 18,000 of those will be in K-12 education alone.
With the proposed cuts to education, we’re projected to fall from 40th in education spending to 48th in the nation. We’ll have fewer teachers, larger class sizes, and no teachers’ assistants beyond first grade. Deep cuts to Smart Start and More at Four will ensure that even more students will be starting school unprepared to learn precisely when we’ll have fewer resources to help them.
How can we expect to recruit new businesses and create jobs if we fail to invest in educating the qualified workforce those businesses need?
As the economy improves, there are going to be increasing opportunities, but those are going to go to the states who find a way to preserve their quality of life and continue to invest in educating their future workforce. Under the current budget proposal, North Carolina won’t be one of them.
And how then are we going to explain to our kids that our legislators sold them out for a penny?
It’s not too late. Please contact your state senator and ask them to take a balanced approach to the budget that includes raising revenue.
Beth Messersmith is a Durham mother of two and member of NC MomsRising. Local MomsRising members write monthly for Go Ask Mom.