Tuesday, North Carolinians will be able to vote on a ballot initiative that would change the economic trajectory of our state for generations to come. I’m talking about the amendment to lower the maximum tax rate on incomes from 10% to 7%. If approved, this change would severely hurt our state’s ability to govern effectively, as well as compromise the integrity of our education system.
I am the person I am today because of North Carolina’s excellent public school funding. It’s totally unconscionable that we would put our children’s– and our state’s– future at risk to give the 1% an unearned tax cut, particularly in the same year teachers rallied in Raleigh for better pay. But that’s exactly what Republicans in our statehouse are proposing.
The crazy thing is, our current state income tax rate is already far below 10%, with actual tax rates currently at 5.49% this year and set to fall in 2019. As such, putting this amendment on the ballot is pointless should no economic disaster requiring a speedy influx of funding hit our state in the coming years, or exceedingly reckless should such a need arise in our ever-uncertain world. Just last month, our state saw tremendous damage from Hurricane Florence. A hamstrung state budget should be the last thing we consider as such storms become more frequent.
And yet, during a midterm election projected to see significant Democratic gains across the country, Republicans are trying to drum up voter turnout by dangling this conservative tax measure in front of their voters. This is a dangerous maneuver to maintain control of the General Assembly, and not just because of the economic threat posed by bad weather.
Politicians know more than anyone that public school funding is in large part tied to tax revenue. When we put an arbitrarily lower cap on the income tax, we put our children’s futures in a bind for the financial benefit of the uber wealthy. This is in spite of the fact that North Carolina’s top 1% has already seen tremendous gains in the last decade that surpass the national average for wealth accumulation. For every $1 owned by the bottom 99% in North Carolina, the top 1% has $20. Not only that, but income growth for the top 1% of earners in North Carolina is heads and shoulders above that seen by the top 1% on a national level. With a permanently lower cap on the income tax rate, this means this unprecedented income growth will not result in greater school funding.
I want our students to have the same great public school education I was afforded. This requires all of us, including the wealthy, to pay our fair share in taxes. We should see this amendment to impose a regressive tax rate for what it is: a partisan maneuver to bring people to the ballot box at the expense of our students and general economic security. On November 6th, we need to get to the polls to make sure politicians working on behalf of millionaires and big business do not permanently mangle the tax code in their favor.