TABOR Will Jeopardize the Future of NC Women and Their Families

North Carolina’s revenue problem has been a concern of ours since we compiled our 2015 Legislative Agenda back in February of this year.  Implementing a TABOR, or a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights”, is part of that concern.  And while we didn’t hear much about TABOR earlier this legislative session, SB607 has made quite a splash in recent days.  The bill was re-introduced last Thursday (August 06), and then quickly moved to the Senate floor for hurried “debates” and the requisite three votes needed to move it forward, all within in the space of a week.  You may have heard of TABOR legislation before; it’s part of a national playbook of those who seem opposed to any government services, and who believe a trickle of money and largess from the most wealthy among us is all that’s needed to build a vibrant, thriving society for all (and that private charity can pick up the slack for those still left on the margins).

To summarize this bill: it proposes three constitutional amendments (to be on the November 2016 general election ballot) that would include limiting the amount of income tax the state could collect while also limiting how much money the state could spend. As you may imagine, that is a recipe for a state that will eventually fail all of its citizens, particularly its most vulnerable. This legislation has been introduced in 30 states, and only one – Colorado – has ever fully accepted it and implemented it. And that went so well, the citizens of CO voted to get rid of key pieces of it. 
Member The NC Justice Center has been on the forefront of calling attention to this bill, and has provided many good resources, including numerous blog posts, additional analysis, and links to more articles, as well as an action alert while this was moving through the Senate. They are a great source of information on this legislation, so be sure to check back in with them as this bill continues to move through the NC General Assembly during this session (which will now be going through at least August 31).
The NC Center for Non-Profits has also sounded the alert on SB607. Less state revenue means less money for both state and non-profit services, and fewer state services means more of the burden of caring for citizens in need is shifted to non-profits, who are already overburdened and under-resourced. The National Council of Non-Profits has come out against TABOR legislation for this reason.
The state provides a lot of services to everyone; that’s its job.  In particular, it provides services to the most vulnerable citizens that can’t get their needs met in the private market. The for-profit market stays away from certain services – like domestic and sexual violence crisis services, and services to assist the homeless and those experiencing food insecurity –  because there is no real opportunity to make a profit from those services (and also the nature of for-profit business means those businesses may feel more vested in making sure there is a continued need for the product they are selling rather than for solving a social problem). This is why we have a balance between public and private enterprise. TABOR legislation plays on the widespread misunderstanding the public has about how government is funded, and what services the government actually provides to us all (see this chart for an example of the services that may be left out with TABOR in place). These services help not just individuals, but also businesses, who make use of the investments we make in our common good – education, infrastructure, a thriving middle class – to sustain their organizations. A minimum amount of revenue for basic services has to come from somewhere, and cuts to corporate and individual income taxes mean we will see likely see higher taxes (property, sales, etc.) elsewhere. Many of us may end up paying higher taxes for fewer services.
As always, women and families, particularly families of color and rural families,  will bear the brunt of this legislation. From cuts to vital services many women-headed households depend on to reductions in the local and state government workforce, and their contractors, that provide good employment opportunities for many women, the impact of this legislation will be felt acutely by many North Carolina women. And, as always, women’s unpaid labor will be called upon to take up the slack. From the responsibilities for family care giving to our tradition of volunteering in our communities (at higher rates than men), women have always been expected to provide the care and labor that ties our individual lives into a community. And many of us are happy to provide that labor, as it’s generally one of love and compassion. “The strength of the woman can carry the world” is an oft-mentioned quote. Our experiences, however, have told us we can’t do it all and we can’t do it alone, and we have a right to expect some help from a government that claims to be by and for all the people.
Our official statement on the Senate passage of SB607 is below:
“From education and job training to affordable child care and health care, women and children benefit from the collective investments that we make in the state budget. A better future for all of us is put at risk with Senate Bill 607, a so-called “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” This proposal would further cut taxes even though long waiting lists abound for early education and in-home services for older adults–a reality that falls hard on working women and caretakers. The proposal would also limit spending to arbitrary limits and tie lawmakers’ hands when it comes to prudently addressing fiscal matters for the state.
 Our budget vision is one the promotes more socioeconomic opportunity for families and children. Senate Bill 607 is irresponsible and will neither help us achieve that goal nor move the state or families forward.”
This bill now moves on to the House; stay tuned, and be ready to talk to your representatives about the bill.
Tara Romano, NCWU President