Commentary

The nation (unfortunately) follows North Carolina’s lead in slashing taxes and services

If you haven’t seen it already, an article in the business section of yesterday’s Washington Post (“What happened when North Carolina cut taxes like the GOP plans to for the country”) is worth your time if you get a few minutes.

The article includes comments from various conservative voices endorsing the tax cuts, but the conclusion of the article really gets to the heart of the matter:

While North Carolina’s economy has chugged along, signs of strain on state spending have increased. The state budget has not kept pace with a growing population, said Alexandra Sirota, director of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center, a left-leaning nonprofit.

“Pretty soon, we’re not going to have enough money,” Sirota said.

The state legislature’s Fiscal Research Division agrees. It projects budget shortfalls of at least $1.2?billion starting in 2019.

The squeeze has already hit public schools.

In North Carolina, the state government provides the bulk of public education funding. And while the overall contribution is up, per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, is down. Plus, there are about 10,000 fewer public school teachers in the state, despite growing enrollment, said Mark Jewell of the North Carolina Association of Educators.

The school system serving Burlington is struggling, said Alamance-Burlington Schools superintendent Bill Harrison.

Anyone claiming schools are better off after the tax cuts is “using smoke and mirrors,” Harrison said.

Harrison rattled off a string of numbers to make his point. Funding for school supplies has dropped 20?percent, he said. His schools get 33?percent less money for textbooks now than a decade ago.

“I heard it every year: Why doesn’t my child have a textbook?” Harrison said.

[T-shirt factory owner Eric] Henry’s wife, Lisa, taught preschool for children with disabilities for almost three decades. She retired in 2015 after watching several years in which state lawmakers made cuts to public schools, including by underfunding teacher pay raises.

“It just felt like a huge slap in the face,” Lisa Henry said.

As the sun started to set, Henry drove back to his company. Just a few employees were still around. None of them said they’d noticed the state tax cuts.

“Other than the roads not getting taken care of,” said Eric Michel, 33, chief logistics officer.

And no one in the office has gotten a big pay raise since the tax cut, either.

Henry hoped that if the company kept growing, that the orders kept coming in, he could afford to pay his workers more.

“But the seeds for that were planted long ago,” he said.

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