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Filing for moral bankruptcy

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that “budgets are moral documents.” If you believe that, as I do, then our state lawmakers are not only leading us toward financial bankruptcy, but moral bankruptcy as well.

For the past two years, we have watched our state gamble with our tax code as if were chips at a roulette wheel. And just like a casino, the odds are stacked against us.

As in the past, legislators have doubled-down on proven losers such as corporate and personal income tax cuts that have benefitted those at the very top, siphoned resources out of the economy, and weakened the building blocks of a strong economy like schools, community colleges and courts.

What exactly does this budget propose to do (and more importantly, not do)? 

  • Eliminating over 8,500 teaching assistants
    North Carolina already has 7,000 fewer teaching assistants than before the recession, but the Senate budget would decimate the remaining TA numbers. Slashing 8,500 TA jobs would amount to the largest layoff in North Carolina history.
     
  • Eliminating over 500 pre-kindergarten spots
    North Carolina was once the national model for early childhood education. Unfortunately, the further cuts this budget would make to pre-kindergarten programs would further erode North Carolina’s legacy. This budget would fund almost 7,000 fewer pre-K slots than in FY09.

  • Ignoring veteran teachers once again
    Despite promises of a 4% average raise, teachers with over 25 years of experience would get absolutely nothing. This is the second year in a row that lawmakers have left veteran teachers out in the cold, with many receiving raises as low as 0.29 percent last year.
     
  • Forcing community colleges to raise tuition
    Lawmakers are forcing community colleges to raise tuition to make up for cuts to higher education, placing more of a financial burden on students -- increasing their student loan debts and reducing their options once they graduate.
     
  • Failing to end tax hikes on small business owners
    Many small business owners were hit with huge tax hikes this year thanks to lawmakers’ decision to eliminate deductions on the first $50,000 of small business income. The Senate budget fails to restore these deductions, which means small business owners will continue to struggle under the added burden.
     
  • Betraying promises to voters on the Education Lottery
    This budget would replace $350 million in permanent education funding with lottery money, violating the entire purpose of the education lottery. Lottery money was always meant to supplement the education budget by funding school construction and tuition for pre-school and college. Lottery money was never meant to replace state revenue. Lawmakers have gone back on their promise to voters.
     
  • Eliminating nearly a billion dollars in revenue
    Lawmakers’ reckless tax handouts to big corporations and wealthy individuals have already cost the state billions in lost revenue. By doubling down on their failed tax scheme and throwing more good money after bad, lawmakers are setting up even more cuts to needed services -- and making it even harder for working-class North Carolinians to recover from the recession.
     
  • Failing to return textbook funding to pre-recession levels
    The proposed $59.6 million in textbook funding is still a far cry from the $101 million funding level before the recession. Students will still have to share textbooks in classrooms while lawmakers continue tax breaks for purchases of big boats and planes.
  • Failing to save the Teaching Fellows program
    This budget ensures that this year’s graduating class of Teaching Fellows will be the last. This program has been a model of how to recruit and retain the best and the brightest teachers for our schools. Eliminating it is short-sighted.
     
  • No change in North Carolina’s ranking for per-student education funding
    North Carolina’s per-student education funding currently ranks 46th in the nation. This budget would do very little to change those figures, which means North Carolina would still rank dead last in the Southeast for what we spend to invest in our children’s education.
     
  • Still no plan to raise teacher pay to the national average
    This budget fails to take a comprehensive approach to the teacher pay crisis in North Carolina. The Senate offers no long-term plan to raise teacher pay to the national average. Under this plan many of our best teachers will continue to leave the profession, leave the state, or take second jobs to make ends meet.

A race to the bottom on taxes is a race to the bottom in quality of life. Unfortunately, both the Senate and House budget proposals include loss of revenue for these critical areas to provide more corporate income tax cuts.

It’s time to our lawmakers that we’ve had enough of their games.  Please sign this petition from our friends at the NC Budget and Tax Center demanding state legislators and the Governor to reject proposals to cut income taxes further that put core public services at risk.

North Carolina’s exceptionalism in the South and the country has always come from our commitment to each other. A commitment that meant asking each of us to contribute to building something bigger than ourselves. Now is the time to make sound public investments that will put North Carolina on solid ground for the future. 

We are better than this. Let’s show it.