Editorial: Running our state into the ground
Posted 5:00 a.m. Friday
Updated 12:35 p.m. Friday
A CBC Editorial: Friday, April 21, 2017; Editorial # 8151
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
Cut taxes. Sounds good, doesn't it. There are, however, two key questions to ask before slashing away. First: What revenue is needed to adequately fund the state’s operations? Next: Who will get the tax cuts? To put another way: Will the tax cuts spur economic growth?
In both cases the North Carolina General Assembly misses the mark, badly.
First, the need for MORE investment in public institutions is obvious. We are not talking about "throwing money at the problem." We are talking about a considered plan that gets North Carolina merely to the national average. This is no boondoggle. It is good business.
- North Carolina school principals are the worst paid in the nation and public school teachers are paid only slightly better. Once we were approaching or at the national average. (Far from being supportive, the state Senate is antagonistic toward public schools and that makes even normal operations difficult.)
- Our university system continues to be forced to deal with budget cuts as top-notch faculty leave for better pay and less antagonism. Once the University of North Carolina was the premier public higher education system in the nation.
- Thousands of at-risk youngsters remain on waiting lists for pre-K programs.
- The supply of quality teachers is drying up, led by the legislature’s abolition of the Teaching Fellows program. That program should be fully restored.
- The needs of our parks and other public facilities continues to grow amid more and more neglect.
- Hundreds of thousands of needy North Carolinians are denied access to health care coverage.
- Expanding the renewable and sustainable energy economy is being bitterly fought at the same time this sector's been one of the brightest spots for the state’s otherwise sluggish economic growth.
There is a belief system in our legislature that states: Government is the problem; Reduce taxes and regulation; Privatize everything; Create competition for public schools (“choice” and vouchers), Keep wages down and keep unions out -- then everything will work out just fine.
The anti-government mindset on Jones Street is so deep it is self-fulfilling. Those low expectations are usually met. Legislators don't care much about their responsibilities to operate our state. They are trying to reduce the effectiveness of the public sector. They are trying to run a business they despise into the ground.
Being a low-wage, low-skill, state and promoting that – is a recipe for mediocrity. That this approach is supported by the N.C. Chamber of Commerce is beyond belief. Its chief priorities are tax cuts for large corporations and high income individuals. Their recent refusal to support funding for school class size reduction mandates reinforces their record for not supporting the public school system.
And what of tax cuts?
The way to grow the economy is to get more money into the hands of consumers. Jobs are created when consumers are demanding more products. A car manufacturer does not make more cars when it gets a tax cut. It makes more cars when consumers can buy more cars.
North Carolina tax cuts have primarily benefited large corporations and high income people. There is little evidence t that this grows the economy. (We don't believe in trickle down any more than we believe in the Easter bunny.)
By resisting any increases in the minimum wage, our legislative leaders’ policies are keeping a lid on disposable income. They’ve expanded sales taxes to more items and services as they’ve eliminated popular programs like the back-to-school sales tax-free weekend and the sales tax holiday on Energy Star appliances. None of these actions increase consumer purchasing power.
Rather than continue with tax cut obsessions, legislative leaders need to focus first on what North Carolina needs to have – well paid teachers and school administrators; best-in-the-nation schools and universities; access for all to affordable health care and; a top quality of life. If there’s anything left over after that, only then should any adjustments in revenues be considered.