This is the 5th post of a Budget and Tax Center blog series on public services and programs that face cuts in the budget process or have been underfunded in past years. See the other posts here.
The North Carolina Senate wants to take a sacred public trust, the education of our children, and subject it to the whims of a voluntary funding system. After frittering away precious resources for schools by giving millionaires – among the only people who have prospered much in recent years – an income tax cut they didn’t need, the Senate now wants you to voluntarily give back part or all of your income tax refund so teachers can get a pay raise.
Teachers deserve a raise. They are among the lowest paid in their profession in the country. And many North Carolinians would no doubt like to help out. But that’s the reason we pay taxes in the first place. We shouldn’t have to pay taxes and then be asked to return our refunds so millionaires can have more money that isn’t likely to be spent to grow jobs or the economy. A better, saner solution would be for the Senate to acknowledge reality: the tax plan that it and the House passed last year and the governor signed into law is failing the people of North Carolina – and their kids.
But rather than do that, senators propose to modify the state income tax form so that you can contribute your income tax refund to the North Carolina Education Endowment Fund, which will support teacher pay raises.
Though we’ve said it many times before, it’s worth going over again: Last year’s tax scheme provided an overwhelming benefit to the wealthiest taxpayers in the state by adopting a one-size-fits-all income tax rate and making other changes that primarily benefited high-income earners. Sixty-five percent of the net tax cut goes to taxpayers whose annual income averages nearly $1 million dollars. Nearly all, 93 percent, of these taxpayers who are in the top 1 percent of taxpayers get an income tax cut.
It’s downright amazing that rather than rescind the income tax cut for millionaires, as House Bill 1210 would do and result in $300 million in badly needed resources for schools and other priorities, the Senate proposes to establish a voluntary system of paying to educate our children.
It will be interesting to see how many North Carolina taxpayers take up this option. Many may, out of the goodness of their hearts. But do we really want our teachers to have to depend on kindness to get by?