NC Budget and Tax Center

School construction debate part of a larger infrastructure crisis for NC

The current debate in Raleigh over how to address the billions of dollars in school construction needs is part of a much larger discussion about how to maintain and build the physical infrastructure that makes modern life possible. A new report documents how declining public investments have left America’s roads, bridges, water pipes, sewers, airports, railroads, and schools in bad shape.

See our recent report Make Space for Learning on how years of tax cuts and broken promises created the school facility crisis and for analysis of the competing plans currently in the legislature.

Even as the nation’s engineers sound the alarm, governments across the country are investing less in infrastructure as a share of the economy than at any point since the 1950s, and North Carolina is no exception. Our collective investment in shared infrastructure has fallen markedly, a major reason that our schools, roads, and other systems are in such dire need of an upgrade.

As is often the case during economic downturns, the NC General Assembly diverted funds from infrastructure to address the budget crisis created by the Great Recession, delaying repairs and putting off new projects. What came next, however, was less common. Instead of getting back to work when the economy improved, legislators passed several rounds of tax cuts and kept kicking the infrastructure can down the road.

The choice to pursue tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy is why we are behind on paying for infrastructure that benefits us all. It is why North Carolina passed the $2 billion Connect NC bond to pay for university, community college, and state park facilities in 2016, it is why the legislature authorized the $3 billion Build NC bond Act to update North Carolina’s roads last year, and it is why we are contemplating issuing bonds this year to pay for school, water, and sewer facilities. Tax cuts have costs, and those costs manifest over time in crumbling roads, failing bridges, and decaying classrooms.

Public investments can knit the country together, ensure that our drinking water is free from poison, that our children have inspiring places to learn, and create public spaces and parks that feed the soul. As we can see in the current school construction debate, when we turn away from building a better future, we all suffer.

Check Also

NC Senate debates new corporate tax cuts; Data, graphs show why the approach isn’t working

With the Senate Finance Committee slated to approve ...

Top Stories from NCPW

  • News
  • Commentary

As lawmakers work to negotiate a final state budget by the end of the month, the ongoing conflict be [...]

The state Charter School Advisory Board (CSAB) on Monday unanimously stood by its approval of two ch [...]

WASHINGTON – North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis declared his opposition last week to one of President T [...]

This is the 74th day of the legislative session and members of the House and Senate face a deadline [...]

If, in this precise moment, you’re wondering where North Carolina’s multi-billion dollar budget is, [...]

The recent proposal from state Senate leaders for the next two-year state budget compromises North C [...]

At a recent Civitas Institute panel discussion, former state senator Joel Ford lamented that – becau [...]

In his recent “must read” book on the history of Jim Crow and how it shaped (and was itself shaped) [...]