Editor’s Note: This column was submitted to South Charlotte Weekly prior to Gov. Perdue’s veto of the spending bill. Republicans can still override the governor’s veto.
by Sam Spencer, Young Democrats of N.C. president, Special to South Charlotte Weekly
Imagine if every person in a town about the size of Huntersville, Mooresville, Monroe or Matthews were suddenly out of a job. Imagine if they no longer had the money to frequent local businesses or contribute to our economy. Imagine the strain on our government to pay the unemployment benefits and increased public safety costs that come with poverty.
Unfortunately, you don’t have to imagine. On June 4, the N.C. General Assembly passed a budget that will give the pink slip to more than 30,000 hard-working North Carolinians. While the people who will lose their jobs are spread out across the state, the negative effects of the Republican budget will be very real for many of us.
Though a fantasy of the Republican budget is that cutting business taxes will create jobs, the reality is that 19,257 jobs will be lost in North Carolina due to shortsighted Medicaid cuts. North Carolina loses $1.2 billion in federal Medicaid matching dollars under the Republican budget. That money will certainly be missed as more people experience poverty as a result of unemployment.
Furthermore, the Republicans ignored the wisdom and foresight of the people of North Carolina by passing a budget that foreclosed upon our historic investment in education. In three recent polls of North Carolina voters, vast majorities, even a Republican majority, supported keeping the sales tax rate where it is today if the money was used to limit the cuts to public education.
Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s budget had a compromise – reduce the sales tax by a quarter-cent and maintain our investment in education. Unfortunately, the Republican budget eliminates more than 9,000 positions in our public schools.
In the Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Gaston and Union County school systems, a combined $68.9 million will be cut from the classroom – all to cut the sales tax by a penny. Higher education is slashed as well. The Republican plan cuts almost $50 million from our growing community college system at a time when we need a skilled workforce more than ever. The UNC system faces a devastating 12 percent budget cut that will eliminate more than 3,000 jobs.
The week before this budget was passed, Mitsubishi announced 135 new jobs in Charlotte and its executive praised our education system. Indeed, when every other state in the Southeast joined the race to the bottom, North Carolina Democrats defended our historic investment in education. Strong public education gives us a comparative advantage.
To compete in the 21st century, North Carolina needs a strong education system capable of creating a skilled workforce. However, in the name of austerity and job creation, the Republicans have passed a budget that guts education and shakes the foundations of our economy.
This false austerity doesn’t create jobs. Instead, it fires hard-working North Carolinians. Instead of supporting public education, the Republican budget leaves kids at the bus stop.
Education creates jobs. False austerity doesn’t. Gov. Perdue is right to oppose this budget.
Sam Spencer, 26, is president of the Young Democrats of North Carolina. He graduated from Davidson College and lives in Davidson.