Governor Pat McCrory broke a campaign promise and told a whopper Tuesday as he signed a massive tax cut for corporations and millionaires that slashes billions in funding for state government.
It was a moment that hard-right conservatives have been dreaming of since State Budget Director Art Pope and his fellow wealthy ideologues on the Right hatched their plan to take over the state in 2010.
It was also a defining moment for both this legislative session and the current state of politics in North Carolina, where rhetoric and reality have never been further apart.
The tax shift plan will reduce state revenues by $650 million a year despite McCrory’s promise that any tax changes would be revenue neutral. And it raises taxes on many low and moderate income families, though McCrory’s said in his official statement that the plan “provides tax relief to all North Carolina taxpayers.”
Even the plans defenders in the Pope-funded propaganda mills admit that isn’t true.
McCrory went a remarkable step further, boasting that the tax plan would give teachers earning $40,000 to $45,000 a year a “one-percent increase in take home pay,” something the state budget approved this week failed to do.
The tax shift plan doesn’t do it either. The tax tables provided with the plan show that someone must earn $250,000 a year before they get a one percent tax break. Teachers in North Carolina must work 15 years before they earn even $40,000 a year.
The day before the celebration of the great tax shift, the almost entirely Pope-funded Civitas Institute released a “flash poll” purporting to show that the majority of voters supported the plan negotiated by Pope himself.
The first question asked voters if they supported the part of the plan “cutting income taxes for every taxpayer,” and not surprisingly they did. The rest of the right-wing spin machine went into overdrive too, spewing false claims and citing discredited data to make the giveaway to the wealthy seem like a boost for the middle class.
Not long after the tax shift ceremony, state lawmakers passed a state budget that continues the theme of slash and prevaricate, firing several thousand teacher assistants, increasing class size and funneling public money to unaccountable private and religious schools.
All this while Republican legislative leaders claimed the budget supports public education, even as teachers and students suffer as the state tumbles closer to the absolute bottom of national rankings of education spending and teacher salaries.
There’s plenty more of the right-wing playbook in the budget too, opening the door to privatizing industrial recruitment, starting to turn Medicaid over to out-of-state for profit managed care companies, abolishing programs aimed at minority economic development, imposing another round of deep cuts to the university system, and ripping more holes in the already tattered safety net for struggling families.
And the agenda goes far beyond budget and taxes. Gov. McCrory has also said he plans to sign the sweeping attack on women’s reproductive rights that passed the House last week, even though that would mean breaking another campaign promise. McCrory vowed not to sign any further restrictions on abortion and restricting access to abortion services is clearly the point of the legislation, as its supporters plainly admit.
Most Republicans seem to know the majority of voters in North Carolina don’t support their radical agenda now sailing through the House and Senate.
It’s not just their blatantly false claims about their budget and tax plan that make that clear.
It’s also obvious when you consider another key part of their master plan that was on full display this week, an extreme voter suppression package designed to make it more difficult for people who disagree with them to do something about it at the polls.
These ideologues are thorough. You have to give them that. They have waited a long time to take over state government and wreak their ideological havoc on the state. Now that they have what must feel like unlimited power, they won’t give up easily.
Slash, prevaricate, repeat. That’s clearly their plan. And we may not recognize North Carolina when they are done.