Commentary

North Carolinians > ALEC

Budget see sawAs a one-time civics teacher, my job was to explain to 8th graders how our government works. On one level, it was simple: people vote for leaders who will represent them. The leaders make decisions on their behalf.

But, of course, that wasn’t the whole story. I usually stumbled through the part about politics and special interests. I labored to explain out how our tax system has grown increasingly regressive, shifting the responsibility off of large corporations and onto the pocketbooks of their parents. Inequality is an ugly reality, but a reality nonetheless.

North Carolinians understand the inequality that exists in our economy. They also understand how to fix it. On Wednesday, North Carolinians from across the state delivered a petition calling on lawmakers to listen to them – and not the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – when it comes to budget and tax choices. The petition, which included more than 6,000 signatures (and which was accompanied by a sign-on letter from 17 organizations representing tens of thousands of individuals) calls for an equitable and adequate tax system that keeps North Carolina strong.

As legislators continue to work on a final budget, many North Carolinians are concerned that their leaders will ignore their voices and instead choose to listen to ALEC. ALEC, a national arch-conservative group funded by large corporations, has designed many of the policies, such as tax cuts, low investments for protecting our communities, and giveaways to big corporations, that have moved North Carolina backwards. Indeed, as the post below notes, many lawmakers left Raleigh early this week to attend ALEC’s annual conference in San Diego.

At a press conference announcing the delivery of the petition, Tazra Mitchell, a policy analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, explained, “The disproven theory that corporate tax cuts help our economy move forward is economic snake oil that ALEC sells to state legislators around the country … These policies are a prescription for poor results that hinder the ability of our state to set up a foundation for future growth.”

After Mitchell’s remarks, more than a dozen North Carolinas spoke out on why they felt investments are critical to a strong and equitable economy. Some examples: Read more

Commentary

NC budget debate: It’s bigger than dollars and cents

Budget_cleaver-150x150This past week I visited Charleston, South Carolina to lay flowers and show support to the people of Charleston and the victims of the Emanuel AME Church shootings. The place buzzed with activists, reporters, and policy makers, including the mayor and governor. Across the nation, political pundits, academics, candidates, law makers, and others have posed a question: “Why did this happen, and what policies will fix this?”

The answers to these questions are neither new nor give us the insight we truly need to begin to remove hatred such as this from our society.

In North Carolina, we are especially equipped to answer the first question. From the 1898 Wilmington coup d’état to this year’s Islamophobia inspired killings of Chapel Hill residents, we have endured many years of hate-inspired violence. We understand and have long dealt with the perverse attitudes that fuel this type of ignorance.

The second question (“What policies will fix the problem?”) does not begin to address the real issue at hand.

The better question is: “Do our laws and policies exemplify the values we want our society to stand for?” In order to combat hatred and ignorance, state legislatures must reevaluate the underlying messages their policies embody.

We do not have a policy issue. We have a values issue. Take, for example, the debate about the state budget.

Fiscal policy is about more than meeting revenue goals and growing the economy, it’s about creating a just and moral society; a society in which the leadership sets the example of how we value and treat individuals. When we refuse to provide all children with access to quality pre-K, when we fail to create equitable education experiences, when we cripple the state’s higher education system, when we fail to support families, when we ignore out-of-work North Carolinians, when we prioritize corporations and neglect individuals, we send a clear message. Read more

Commentary

The people have spoken: It’s time to reinvest

BTC -Smart investmentsAcross the nation, the post-recession recovery has been slow and North Carolina is no exception. This is due in large part to historically low public investment. State leaders have turned to austerity and tax cuts to promote growth; unfortunately, these plans have backfired. We cannot leave our future up to the invisible hand of the market; the same invisible hand responsible for the financial crises. Public policy must intentionally promote and protect economic growth and stability.

The House gets it. Although modest, the budget proposed by the House of Representatives invests in North Carolina at rates higher than any other state bill since 2009. The bill increases funding towards K-12 education, rural communities, the court system, health, housing, and other critical public services.

It is now time for the Senate to follow suit. Unfortunately, the Senate’s spending targets lead analysts to expect a bill that will exclude many of the provisions that would give North Carolinians the breath of fresh air that they so desperately need. In anticipation, the North Carolina Justice Center’s Budget & Tax Center held a press conference, Monday, calling on the Senate to build on the reinvestment the House budget. Read more