Waiting lists have grown for services for seniors and young children. Classrooms are getting more crowded. Court rooms are backlogged. That’s the reality in North Carolina since we don’t have nearly enough resources to meet our basic needs. And things could get much worse if lawmakers push through tax breaks that would mostly benefit the wealthy and limit state spending in a way that ignores how North Carolina is changing.
In a series of blog posts last week, my colleague Tazra Mitchell pointed out how our current tax system is failing to meet the changing needs of North Carolinians and our economy. The problem will get even worse if the tax plans the Legislature is considering go into effect, since they would significantly reduce already inadequate resources for schools, health care and other things we rely on in our homes, businesses and communities every day.
The state is at historic lows in spending as a share of personal income (the best way to compare spending over time). When funding for education, public safety and other vital services can’t keep up with a changing and growing economy, tax systems fall short of their main purpose. A sound tax system must grow to be able to meet our needs over time. Slashing taxes and holding spending to an arbitrary rate would be a giant step backward.
As Tazra detailed last week:
- Deep revenue losses will accumulate overtime and make it much more difficult for North Carolina to rebuild a strong economy and help children, families, and communities to thrive.
- Arbitrarily slowing growth in state spending would hamstring the state’s ability to make public investments that keep pace with North Carolina’s economy and the changing population of the state.
- If lawmakers approve deep cuts in revenues, it will be even less likely that the state will be able to keep up, let alone catch up, with the needs of a growing student population, the workers who devote their careers to teaching, and the needs of a graying population.
While proponents like to refer to these policies as tax “reform,” implying they are improvements, nothing could be further from the truth. In the current debate, meeting the needs of North Carolina students, working families and seniors has taken a back seat to an agenda of tax cuts and spending constraints that will harm the state’s economy and its people.