I apologize for the length, but this was a note that I first posted on facebook last weekend. It may rile some feathers, but sometimes a good spring cleaning is needed:
Since last January, I have been watching and listening very closely to many of the elected officials, activists and hanger-ons after the Republicans gained complete control of the General Assembly; a feat unseen in over 120 years. With this historic win come the fruits of victory, and in this case it meant the ability to redraw the state's legislative and congressional maps.
After a three judge panel refused to delay the 2012 primary date (and in essence the filing period), we have seen scores of veteran democrats dropiing like flies. This is in NO WAY an attack on them-I thank them for their willingness to step up and serve! However, this has given me pause to think about the bigger picture, and despite of the incoming fire that will surely follow, my thoughts:
1. Time to Change the Guard.
A few years ago I went to a forum on the budget where the senior appropriation chairs took questions from citizens throughout the state. With the exception of ONE member of the panel, the entire stage was comprised of old, white men (and one African American male). No offense, but by "old" I mean men in their 70's. I am sorry but this is NOT rperesntative of the demographic layout of North Carolina. I would suggest to you that it is TIME to clean out the old establishment mentality of this party, and bring in folks who are not "connected" to corporate money and attitudes that ignored the the people that truly want this state to be a bright light of progessive thought instead of still stuck in the mindset of the 40's and 50's. Maybe we truly need term limits for legislators, or even a smaller House where the members are paid a salary which invites people to run before they become filthy rich or retired.
2. Time to Truly Stand for the Poor and Working Men and Women.
A year ago, as I was watching the demise of the middle class in Wisconsin by Governor Scott Walker, I was thrilled to watch as the "Wisconsin 14," the 14 senate democrats that left the state to slow down the legislative attacks by republicans against collective bargaining rights of public sector employees. I watched as the house democrats, unable to stop the action in their chamber, yelled, "SHAME SHAME SHAME," as the vote was cast. I wondered to myself if democrats in THIS state would ever stand and fight like that. I had to realize the truth; NO they would NOT stand and fight like that! Don't believe me? Check the facts: 1959, it was DEMOCRATS that passed legislation to ban collective bargaining. Even in all the years when democrats controlled the executive and legislative powers, the idea of repealing a Jim Crow-era law NEVER was allowed to have a floor vote. Why? Because democrats in the House had a rule that prevented individual members from getting a fair committee/floor vote on a bill unless the leadership gave the approval. Republicans did away with that rule when they took over control last year.
Need another reason to pause and think? Did you know that when the 2009-10 budget was ratified, that according to the legislature and governor, a single person with a $60K was considered as "rich" and required to pay a TAX SURCHARGE on their income? Here is the facts from the '09 Appropriation Act:
Part 2 of Article 4 of Chapter 105 of the General Statutes is
amended by adding a new section to read:
§ 105-134.2A. Income tax surtax.
Page 218 S202 [Ratified]
(a) Surtax. – An income tax surtax is imposed on a taxpayer equal to a percentage of
the tax payable by the taxpayer under G.S. 105-134.2 for the taxable year. This tax is in
addition to the tax imposed by G.S. 105-134.2 and is due at the time prescribed in G.S. 105-155
for filing an individual income tax return. The surtax is imposed at the following percentage
rates and applies to the tax payable on the taxpayer's North Carolina taxable income:
Filing Status Over Up To Percentage
Married, filing jointly or surviving spouse $ 0 $100,000 0%
$100,000 $250,000 2% $250,000 NA 3%
Head of household $ 0 $ 80,000 0% $ 80,000 $200,000 2% $200,000 NA 3%
Single $ 0 $ 60,000 0% $ 60,000 $150,000 2% $150,000 NA 3%
This was a surcharge on top of the tax due. I wonder if President Obama would ever have thought of a $60,000 income as being "rich." We cannot blame the republicans for this move made during the recession.
3. Time to STOP Taxing the Poor and Working People in This State.
Since moving here in 1997, I have observed 7 long sessions of the General Assembly. It is this session where the biennial (2 year) budget is drafted. The short session (even years) is used to make adjustments as needed. Here is a truth for you; Proposed "temporary tax increases" were ALWAYS implemented during the long session. To suggest any kind of tax increase in an ELECTION year is stupid and political suicide.
Additionally, this year is not the time to put another tax increase on people who are barely scraping by as we try to crawl out of a recession. North Carolina has one of the six HIGHEST unemployment rates at 9.9%, and for minorities that rate is near 15%. The vast majority of workers in this state have NOT had a pay raise in 4 YEARS. Yet housing, food, esentials, and the GAS TAX have continued to go UP! Gas is currently $3.71/gallon here in NC. Why the hell would we continue to even suggest that taxes should go up? How about following President Obama's idea and focus on real reforms that have coproations and the wealthiest pay their fair share? Advocating for regressive taxes-STUPID!
4. Time to be Completely Honest with Taxpayers.
During last year's budget battle, we heard many horror stories about the looming loss of 20-30, 000 jobs of teachers and other public sector workers. Let's be real about two things: 1. Vacant positions do NOT count in people losing their jobs. I have worked in four separate state agencies in my time here, and I know for a fact that every agency kept positions vacant to "pad" their budget numbers in order to have funds to use for "special projects," conferences for top executives, etc. Unfilled positions and the salaries that went with them were used to create slush funds.
Having said that, we have to address the TRUE numbers of people who were actually told to, "pack your stuff and leave!" In that case, slightly over 600 general government employees, and just under 600 licensed classroom teachers were laid off. These figures were included in an excellent News & Observer article on 2/5/12. The figures were fact checked and came from Department of Public Instruction, Employment Security, and the General Assembly Reasearch staff. Leaders in DPI and ESC were appointed by a democratic governor, NOT republicans! The staff at the GA are ethical employees who do NOT push the R or D agenda.
We have deep problems looming over the horizon and we need complete honesty. We have a $300 million+ deficit in Medicaid. We owe the federal government $2.7 BILLION for the unemployment funds (grows by $27 million/week), and the final education installment of the stimulus bill runs out this summer. Any candidate for political office who cannot be totally honest does not deserve to be elected this year! Like many of you, I want democrats to regain control of the General Assembly and maintain the governor's mansion. However, if it means the same old status quo of the past fifty years, I'm not sure if that will really mean that we learned anything from the 2010 elections. Peace!