The state budget is about our priorities for North Carolina, a reflection of what we value and how we plan to invest in our people and communities for the future. Indeed, in its best version, a budget can serve as a roadmap for how we ensure each and every community in our state thrives.
But for years our vision for North Carolina’s future has been arbitrarily constrained by policymakers because of their focus on cutting taxes for the rich and big companies, an approach that isn’t going to help our long-term economic growth and is reducing our annual revenue by at least $3.6 billion so that we can’t invest in opportunity today.
As House members gather to discuss proposals for how our tax dollars will be invested in our collective well-being and begin full debate on their proposal next week, here are some key issues that a House budget (and any budget for North Carolina) should address:
- The arbitrarily low level of public investments despite a growing state. North Carolina continues to spend at a 45-year low as a share of the economy which means that we aren’t providing the same foundation we did in years past even as we seek to support stronger economic performance. The research is clear that public investments in education, infrastructure, and health matter for our economic growth, potential, and quality of life. North Carolina can afford to make these investments if our leaders choose to invest in us rather than give tax cuts to the few.
- The state’s upside-down tax code that asks more from people with low and fixed incomes and less from millionaires. With tax cuts since 2013 that have primarily benefited the very rich and corporations, there is an urgent need to address the problems with asking those in poverty to contribute nearly twice as much in total taxes as a share of their income compared to millionaires. Not only does this undermine people’s ability to meet basic needs and build the assets to move up and out of poverty, it means our tax code holds back our economy.
- The pressing needs across North Carolina include affordable, quality health care for our neighbors; high quality child care for our children; and a focus on connecting communities to economic growth opportunities. North Carolina has the tools to address these persistent problems; they include infrastructure investments like broadband, technical assistance for entrepreneurs, closing the coverage gap, and investing in the youngest among us. The documentation of unmet needs is prominent in nearly every corner of the state and the research about the lost potential for NC from a lack of investment is clear.
Of course, there are a number of other things that we will look to analyze once the full budget is released, including whether state leaders have committed state dollars to state responsibilities, aligned recurring funds for recurring responsibilities, and limited the payments to special interests in favor of building systems that serve us all.
We look forward to sharing that analysis in the coming week. Over the weekend, we will continue to reflect on the budget that North Carolina deserves, one that shows just how much we love our state and love the potential that could be realized if we are all supported in achieving our goals.