Coalition representing millions: Raising revenues necessary to lead North Carolina out of recession
At a Together NC news conference, more than 80 groups urged lawmakers to avoid devastating cuts by taking a "balanced approach" to the budget
RALEIGH (June 2, 2009) -- More than 80 groups united on Tuesday to send state lawmakers a message: preserving public investment in North Carolina is worth raising much-needed revenues.
Closing North Carolina's budget gap with cuts alone will devastate families and communities across the state, the groups say, and will deepen and prolong the recession as well. A balanced approach that includes strategic tax increases along with judicious cuts is the best way to protect working families and avoid prolonging the recession.
"Unfortunately, because of the current budget crisis, all we've been hearing is about how we need to slash vital programs," said George Reed of the NC Council of Churches. "This one-sided approach isn't going to work, and it will set back decades of progress. Now is the time for our lawmakers to show courage and leadership by raising the revenue our state needs to prosper."
Together NC, a broad and diverse coalition of non-profit organizations, service providers, and professional associations, is joining with newly allied organizations and supportive individuals to call for smart revenue solutions that preserve vital programs.
"To promote quality education, and public health and safety, the people are speaking with one voice: it's worth raising revenue to do these things,
said Kelvin Spragley, associate executive director of the North Carolina Association of Educators.
The news conference took place amidst a series of Together NC town hall discussions held across the state. After hearing countless stories from North Carolinians about the importance of public programs and services, Together NC wants elected officials to hear from people in communities across North Carolina so that legislators can make budget decisions that support communities and families and do not undermine the state's economic recovery.
These economic times are uniquely troubling, said John Quinterno of the NC Justice Center's Budget & Tax Center, because the damage could go far beyond North Carolina's most vulnerable citizens - all of the state's residents would be affected.
"The problems will become even more severe if the state legislature insists on a cuts-only approach to balancing the budget," Quinterno said. "By removing even more demand for goods and services from the economy, sizable reductions in public spending will result in greater levels of joblessness and postpone any recovery."
Julia Leggett of the Arc of North Carolina offered several poignant examples.
"The Health and Human Services budget helps older adults and people with disabilities stay in their homes in their communities. Many of these people would face institutionalization without this much-needed assistance," she said. "Yet the HHS budget is set to be slashed to levels that would put thousands of people at risk of being wrenched from their homes and institutionalized. Also, more than 50,000 North Carolina jobs would be lost."
"This is tragic on so many levels - for the individuals and their families, it's a crushing and inhumane blow," Leggett continued. "For society, institutionalization is a dramatically more expensive option. Preserving this essential public investment would work better for everyone. It's worth raising revenue to do this."
Lao Rupert of the Carolina Justice Policy Center said that preserving forward-thinking public safety programs made sense for communities across the state.
For instance, one of the programs on the chopping block is Sentencing Services. This program, Rubert said, is a common-sense, cost-effective effort to promote public safety through smart, community-oriented solutions.
"By diverting offenders into treatment instead of prison, the program saves the state millions of dollars," Rubert said, "and gives almost 1,000 offenders a year a second chance while they pay restitution to their victims. Preserving public investments in the justice system would make our communities safer and would save countless dollars in the long run."
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Jeff Shaw, communications director, North Carolina Justice Center, 919.863.2402 (office) 503.551.3615 (mobile); Rob Thompson, executive director, Covenant with North Carolina's Children, 919.866.3280 (office) 919.649.2449 (mobile), www.togethernc.org