This past week Sen. Phil Berger and other GOP leaders announced a skeletal proposal to raise teacher salaries this summer session. Yet, while it appears to be a great gain on the outside, it lacks enough explanation to remove doubt.
The Associated Press reported in “Senate GOP would pay teachers more than House, McCrory” that,
Berger said the Senate’s entire plan would cost $538 million over two years and not require tax increases, relying instead on a stronger economy and healthy state revenues to pay for it. Pressed for what other spending changes, if any, would be needed to carry it out, he responded: “Once you see the full budget, you’ll be able to see the details about it.”
Stronger economy and healthy state revenues. Interesting use of words.
Let us not forget that there are multiple issues at work here in the GOP’s legislative landscape and they are not mutually exclusive. When people hear “stronger economy and healthy state revenues,” they should ask, “Who is it stronger for and who is healthier for it?”
That stronger, healthier economy was built on many things that were actually deleterious to working North Carolinians. Think of the tax deductions and exemptions that were eliminated for many middle-class families. While the state could now claim to have “lowered” taxes, many families were actually giving more money to the state because they could not claim item deductions as they could in the past.
Furthermore, factor in new sales tax laws because of the move to a consumer driven economy where most of the consuming is done by the very people who pay a higher percentage of their income to purchase necessities.
Healthy state revenues? How about just looking at health? Remember the fiasco of the Department of Health and Human Services under the leadership of Dr. Vos at the beginning of the governor’s term? That was just a snapshot at how much the state needed to look at the expansion of Medicaid in the state. However, instead of expanding Medicaid, the current administration chose to side with partisan political egos and refuse federal help.
In a state that has almost one in four children living in poverty how can one claim a healthy environment? Just add some coal ash ponds and an unregulated fracking industry and “healthy” becomes an antithetical word. It could almost be construed that mentioning teacher salary raises is an attempt at camouflaging how we came to have the very “strong” and “healthy” economy that was created in order to play for it.
That’s like killing two birds with one stone – downplaying how we as a state came to a surplus and proselytizing how we value teachers.
Yet, still lurking in the background is the HB2 issue. Remember the dueling lawsuits that are now active over the discrimination of the LGBT community, the people who still pay the very taxes other citizens pay and support or attend the same schools? The lost business revenue from boycotts is always up for debate, but it is happening. It has an effect on the health and strength of our economy.
But, when we are asked to focus on the great (and still nebulous) news that North Carolina wants to pay its teachers more, then we tend to forget what negative aspects of our state’s actions are still having repercussions.
Sounds like it is almost deliberate. Downplay how we changed state revenue pipelines to affect the middle-class adversely, ignore the impending legal battle over HB2 that will surely costs taxpayers much, and gloss over the fact that North Carolina has treated public education horribly and one might understand how Senator Berger’s statement in the Associated Press’s report could indeed be incredibly deliberate.
It tries to kill three birds with one stone. Or with one commode (from a public unisex bathroom).
Ignoring three negatives with a glossy positive statement does not solve problems, which makes the last part of Berger’s quote that much more important. He said, “Once you see the full budget, you’ll be able to see the details about it.”
The devil resides in the details.
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