Davis’ gain is public education’s loss

To the Editor:

At the county and state government levels budgets are about choices, and those choices have moral implications, not just economic ones. Since he has participated at both government levels, you would think Sen. Jim Davis, R-Franklin, would appreciate that principle, but he doesn’t.

At a time when Sen. Davis and Republican lawmakers were making dramatic cuts in the state’s education budget, they created a tax loophole putting up to $3,500 into the pockets of wealthy business owners.

Though heralded by Republican leaders as a $50,000 tax exemption for small business, no cap was placed on the size of business that could claim this benefit. As a result, this loophole now applies to roughly 480,000 corporations and business owners such as lawyers, doctors, and even orthodontist like Davis.

This means that these business owners will be able to avoid paying taxes on their first $50,000 of income, providing them approximately $3,500 in savings.

As reported by The Raleigh News and Observer, this tax loophole will ultimately cost the state $336 million each year. This would roughly equal the salaries and benefits of the 6,400 employees who lost their jobs last year. Approximately 900 of these employees were teachers — even though state’s student population increased by more than 10,750.

It makes no sense and it is certainly not good government to provide tax breaks to those who don’t need it — while cutting teachers and increasing class sizes.

However, Sen. Davis and Republican lawmakers have once again required school systems across North Carolina to return to the state a significant percentage of their allocated operational resources, better known as discretionary funds. Since 80 percent of education dollars are in people, this means that once again our school systems will have to cut teachers, assistant principals and support staff.

This year, Macon County is required to return $1,064,424 on top of the $1.25 million sent back to Raleigh last year. Jackson County must return $875,734 and Clay County $322,195. These are the very funds that assist in paying for teachers, state/federal mandated programs, supplies, equipment and student transportation.

If it had not been for the Obama stimulus package and the wise judgment of county commissioners and school boards to place funds into reserve last year, the impact of these cuts would have been dramatic. But the stimulus money and the reserve funds have been depleted, and this year even more cuts of classroom teachers will have to be made.

Budgets are about choices, and those choices have moral as well as economic implications. In our selection of who will represent us in the state Senate next year, it is important that we select one who truly understands and acknowledges that principle with every vote they cast. Regretfully, Sen. Jim Davis doesn’t.

Ben J. Utley


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