Unleashing NC’s future

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 28, 2013

‘This is the formula that will unleash North Carolina’s economic potential.” So says Gov. Pat McCrory in a press release issued Friday after the close of the General Assembly.
For the sake of the state and its growing population, North Carolinians hope the governor is right.
But McCrory’s predictions and his genuineness fall into doubt when his office sends out a press release touting, among other things, the fact that the budget funds teacher assistants in kindergarten and first grade. The release neglects to mention that budget writers cut funding for teacher assistants in grades two and three. Third grade is the year in which students are supposed to mature from learning to read to reading to learn, a point McCrory emphasized earlier this year. They’ll have to master that skill with less help in the years ahead. What potential will that unleash?
Political spin hardly began with this governor and legislature. But this budget and the overall agenda that won approval this summer appear to contain some unspoken motives.
Certainly the so-called voter ID bill is much more than an effort to make sure voters are who they say they are. In addition to requiring government-issued identification to vote, the law shortens the early voting period, stops election-day registration and ends straight-ticket voting, a convenience exercised by some 34,000 Rowan County voters in 2012 — 19,470 Republicans, 14,228 Democrats and 329 Libertarians. Look for a press release touting the fact that North Carolina will have 10 days of early voting — not mentioning that we used to have 17. Does that unleash potential or rein it in?
Tax cuts are the real force expected to “unleash the state’s economic potential,” and some tax cuts were in order. North Carolina stood out for having the highest corporate income tax in the Southeast. Thanks to the legislature, we could soon have the lowest. And the state’s three-tier personal income tax rate will change to one that treats everyone the same, from janitor to CEO — a flat 5.8 percent.
Those who don’t consider a low, flat tax rate to be the holy grail wonder if some of the legislature’s other moves might hinder the great unleashing. For example, are corporations so focused on tax rates that they’ll overlook the government’s fading support for public education, once the state’s great pride? And what will this tax structure do to widen the gap between rich and poor as it expands the sales tax? Time will tell. We’ve yet to digest everything the legislature has done, but McCrory appears to be blessing it all. This experiment in governance was not totally of his making, but it’s his nonetheless. The changes it unleashes will have a large impact on the state and McCrory’s political future.