Now that you’ve filed your income taxes, it’s worthwhile to remember what you have pooled your resources to invest in—the public structures that keep us safe, promote healthy communities and provide opportunity for all. These structures serve as the foundation of the nation’s and North Carolina’s economy.
This connection between the taxes state and federal governments collect and the investments they make is easy to forget. But this year, it is critically important that we remind ourselves of the benefits we and our neighbors enjoy thanks to North Carolina’s public structures—because they are all in jeopardy.
Currently, North Carolina legislators are considering drastic cuts that would dismantle the state’s early childhood education system, increase class sizes in public schools, make college less affordable, and dismantle protections for workers. Why? Because policymakers refuse to consider raising (or even preserving) the revenue needed to ensure adequate investments that support a sound economy and a healthy society. Instead, they’ve narrowed their choices to one spending cut versus another. Such a “cuts-only” approach will lead North Carolina nowhere and make the road to and for the middle class difficult to travel.
We in North Carolina need our leaders to create a vision of a shared future, one toward which we can all strive and contribute. Without it, we will continue to exact these annual sacrifices from the most vulnerable people in the state with no plan to avoid more pain in the future. And we will fail to assess the full scale of the damage that we have wrought on people and our state’s public structures and account for how these choices will touch future generations.
North Carolina must continue to be a state that invests early and consistently in its children, providing educational opportunities in the early years that can multiply lifetime earnings. We must provide workers with access to high-quality skills training and higher education that enable them to contribute to economic growth and give them the chance to earn family-sustaining wages. North Carolina must ensure that people with disabilities get the support and tools they need—eyeglasses, therapy, prosthetics—that can make their daily challenges a little bit easier, and we must care for and protect our elders, providing them with the opportunity to stay in their homes, eat a healthy meal each day and be part of a community of peers. And to ensure that North Carolina’s businesses can compete, we must invest in the roads, bridges and ports that bring goods to market, support entrepreneurs with business training and access to credit and ensure that our communities are healthy and deliver a high quality of life.
All of these public investments are currently on the chopping block at the NC General Assembly. But, contrary to what many legislators claim, North Carolina does have budget options. Adequate revenue could minimize or even eliminate these cuts.
By combining our resources to serve the common good, like we do on Tax Day and nearly every day throughout the year, we can invest in what matters to all of us—healthy, stable families, businesses and communities that all enjoy the prosperity of a strong economy. By asking all the people of North Carolina to do our part as we are able, state policymakers can ensure that North Carolina thrives for generations to come.
Alexandra Sirota is the Director of the N.C. Budget and Tax Center