Should N.C. raise sales tax to help education? Yes
Fifty-one years ago, Gov. Terry Sanford asked the N.C. General Assembly to join him in transforming the state's economy with new and bold investments in education, saying, "this is no age for the faint of heart."
Over the next four years, the people of North Carolina nearly doubled their investment in our public schools.
Today, because of that historic commitment, North Carolina is home to some of the world's most advanced business clusters - finance, bio-tech, pharmaceuticals, software and IT. The return on investment is incalculable.
Good CEOs know big dividends begin with smart investments and tough choices.
Since I took office, I have worked with the General Assembly to make the difficult choices and significant cuts needed to keep our financial house in order. I have consolidated departments, eliminated waste and made government more efficient. Right now, we are one of only seven states to maintain our AAA Bond rating.
The Republican leaders of the General Assembly and I disagree about the value of education. Last year, they passed a budget over my veto that made deep and unnecessary cuts to our schools in order to eliminate a penny from the state's sales tax. That's bad for business.
Across North Carolina, our schools from Pre-K through higher education are already hurting. The N.C. Association of School Administrators recently reported that North Carolina has fallen to 49th in the nation in per-pupil funding.
School districts have eliminated more than 1,700 teacher positions and nearly 2,300 teacher assistant positions this school year. And class sizes are increasing, especially in grades 4-12.
Unless we act, things will get worse. The General Assembly's cuts go even deeper next year, and $255 million in federal funds, which postponed some teacher layoffs, are expiring.
That's why, in my budget this spring, I will ask the General Assembly to temporarily restore three-fourths of one penny to the state's sales tax. All of the revenue will go toward strengthening schools, community colleges and universities.
It may not be the popular thing to do politically, but it is the right thing to do for our children, and the future of our economy.
Opponents of public education will no doubt raise the same familiar cries against these investments. But as Gov. Sanford said half a century ago, this is no age for the faint of heart.
Businesses always look for the next smart investment. It's our job to invest in children so companies find the workforce they need right here.
I believe the people of North Carolina are willing to invest a fraction of a penny for progress.