While current state budget proposals include significant tax cuts, survey results released by progressive think tank Carolina Forward show 60% of North Carolina voters believe it is more important to invest in K-12 public schools than to cut personal income taxes.
The Senate’s budget plan reflected a $1 billion tax cut for North Carolinians, while the House plan reflected a $2 billion cut. The House and Senate have agreed on a compromise budget plan, but its details have not be revealed.
Democrats in the Republican-led General Assembly have criticized the plans for doing too little for education. Gov. Roy Cooper has vowed to ensure lawmakers pass a budget that calls for more education funding.
Carolina Forward survey respondents were mostly women (53%), and 72% were white. The respondents spread across party lines, with 38% identifying as Democrats, 34% as Republicans and 29% as independents.
More than 80% of Democrats favored increased education spending over tax cuts, as well as 53% of independents. Forty-one percent of Republicans said they favored education spending over tax cuts.
The General Assembly plans to spend more than $10 billion on education this fiscal year and the next. A federal court order calls for the state to spend an additional $700 million this fiscal year and more than $1 billion more next fiscal year on education. However, the House and Senate proposals fall short of the order. Public K-12 schools have received $5.6 billion in federal aid in response to COVID-19.
Terry Stoops, director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation, said North Carolinians should focus on how education dollars are spent rather than how much taxpayers pour into a public education system. The General Assembly has increased K-12 education funding by more than $1.3 billion over the past five years.
“The Republican-led General Assembly has been able to simultaneously cut taxes and increase education expenditures by using a simple, common-sense formula of cultivating a prosperous economy and ratifying prudent budgets,” Stoops said.
The Senate and House proposals had cut personal income and corporate taxes. The Senate version eliminated the corporate tax, and the House reduced the tax rate to 1.99%. The Senate also cut the personal income tax rate lower than the House; 3.99% versus 4.99%.
More than half (55%) of the voters surveyed said they supported raising corporate taxes to support schools and infrastructure. Only 21% of voters favored eliminating corporate tax.
The Forward Carolina poll was conducted Aug. 6-7 and had a margin of error of 3.5%.