Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center, Raising the Bar 2015

Raising the Bar in North CarolinaEditor’s note: The following post by Beth Messersmith, NC Campaign Director with, is the latest installment in “Raising the Bar,” a new series of essays and blog posts authored by North Carolina leaders highlighting ways in which North Carolina public investments are falling short and where and how they can be improved.

This week found my husband and I scrambling to make sure we had all of our I’s dotted and our T’s crossed as we hurried to make sure we had our taxes filed on time.

As he sat watching us from the couch, my almost ten-year old remarked about what a bummer it is to have to pay taxes. His sister stopped doing cartwheels across the living room long enough to agree and opine that she was glad that she didn’t have to pay them out of her allowance.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Anti-tax rhetoric is everywhere in the weeks leading up to tax day. Just that morning on the way to school the deejay on the morning radio show was talking about how much he hates paying taxes.

But their remarks were enough to make me stop my hunt for receipts and pull the kids onto the couch to talk to them about why —as a parent and a part of this country —I don’t mind paying taxes. In fact, I see it as part of my duty as someone who loves this country and benefits every single day from the investments we make as a society. And why, as a parent, I feel especially grateful for the investments we make in our children.

We started off by talking about their schools and the things that make schools work. They listed off their teachers, their supplies, the buses, even the buildings. Then I asked them who they thought owns our schools and employs our teachers. They’d never really thought about it. Explaining it to them gave me a chance to talk about how taxes are actually investments in our community and, in the case of schools, in the futures of the children who attend them. I shared how I benefited from public schools even before they were born as a student myself, as an employer looking to hire qualified people, and as a community member who benefits from an educated society. Read More


Dianna Lightfoot, who resigned before taking a job as the head of the state’s early education and child development division, saw media interest in her online commentary as attacks, according to emails released as part of a public records request.

“Just got a call saying someone had found a Tweet where I termed Hillary Clinton butch,” Lightfoot wrote in a Feb. 6 email to Matthew McKillip, a DHHS policy advisor. “Guess they’re really after me.”

That phone call Lightfoot referenced appears to have been from N.C. Policy Watch, which published this post about one of the more controversial comments Lightfoot made online. Lightfoot, who headed a group that questioned the value of early education, was the subject of several media  stories after the Feb. 5 announcement of her hire. She took down her Twitter feed shortly after the press inquiries.

Dianna Lightfoot

Dianna Lightfoot

McKillip, who worked for Gov. Pat McCrory’s campaign before joining DHHS, and Lightfoot exchanged several emails about Lightfoot’s appointment by DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, both before and after Lightfoot’s position on early education and Twitter posts attracted media attention.

“You may already know that I’ve been appointed DHHS Director of Child Development and Education,” Lightfoot wrote in a Feb. 2 email to McKillip. “Thanks for your help!”

“Yes! Congratulations! I’m glad it’s official!,” McKillip wrote back a few hours later. “Look forward to having you on board!”

The emails were released Monday as part of a Feb. 8 public records request N.C. Policy Watch and several other media organizations made about Lightfoot’s appointment and subsequent resignation.

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Dianna Lightfoot’s tenure with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services was short-lived, without her ever having a first day on the job.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released a statement Thursday that Lightfoot will not take over at the head of the state’s early education and child development division.

Dianna Lightfoot

Dianna Lightfoot

Lightfoot, of Winston-Salem, had been the president of the National Physicians Center for Family Resources since 2001, a pro-abstinence organization that took the position that early education for low-income children could create dependence on government programs for young children.

She also was outspoken on her personal Twitter account where she tweeted several anti-gay comments, including a July 2011 tweet where Lightfoot called former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “butch.” (Click here for our previous post.)

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos appointed Lightfoot to head the state’s child development and early education division on Tuesday, calling Lightfoot a “strategic and tactical top tier executive with extensive health care, child welfare and education expertise.”

Below is the release from DHHS about Lightfoot’s resignation:

Dianna Lightfoot was scheduled to start at HHS next week as Director of Child Development and Early Education.  Ms. Lightfoot informed Secretary Wos this morning that she does not wish to be a distraction to the department and will pursue other opportunities.  Secretary Wos accepted this decision.