FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RALEIGH - NC legislators can create advantages for citizens by investing carefully in good governance, encouraging school excellence, and focusing on the legitimate strategic needs of our state. Those are a few of the recommendations outlined in Progress 2006, a dynamic new initiative by Blue NC.
“As we enter the 2006 campaign season, candidates for public office in North Carolina are faced with the daunting and possibly overwhelming task of developing informed positions on dozens of public policy issues,” says James Protzman, who helped start Blue NC. “Progress 2006, is designed to help those candidates by combining the expertise of Blue NC analysts and contributors to address state and local budgets and taxes, education, state regulation, local government, and health and human services."
“Progress 2006 is an ongoing commitment,” says Protzman. “We understand that issues are complex and that the best solutions emerge from healthy dialogue. We invite all concerned citizens to help us improve our ideas and ensure that We the People have a voice in how our state government operates."
The state budget is a reflection of our shared priorities. Governor Mike Easley and the General Assembly have a responsibility to invest wisely when we have a tax surplus to ensure that the state’s strategic needs are well-served. BlueNC rejects the calls from anti-government conservatives to place arbitrary limits on public investments.
Progress 2006 recommends reforming the North Carolina tax code so that millionaires carry their fair share of the tax burden. Conservatives want to align North Carolina tax policy to match what’s going on in other southern states. Do we really want to be another Alabama or South Carolina? Do we really want to drop in farther in national rankings of child well-being? Rather than settle for mediocrity and average performance, progressives want to see North Carolina at the top of major rankings. We want to have the best paid teachers in the country. We want to create advantages for citizens that make North Carolina a haven for prosperity and the common good. We can set a standard for excellence – and we should.
Regarding public education, the General Assembly should give parents an Education Bill of Rights that precludes the state from dictating acceptable positions around patriotism and sex education. State experimentation with public charter schools should continue. No public money should be diverted into programs that end up as profits for private schools.
Progress 2006 calls for state policy makers to leave higher education to educators. The marketplace has a long and strong history of determining the value of a UNC system education. Interference in that proven system by right-wing think tanks is inappropriate. The Bush administration has already showed the toxic affect of obsessive testing.
Other recommendations include a strong endorsement of smart growth. Growth is inevitable as our population continues to expand. Smart growth is better than stupid growth.
Regarding campaign finance: It’s wrong when rich individuals can influence North Carolina elections with corporate money. It's a step over the line when people want to buy and sell elections like shares in their companies. We need to move toward fair, citizen-owned elections, not toward more concentration of power in the hands of a few.
Progress 2006 also addresses climate change. Conservatives don’t really want to conserve anything except their profits. Their assaults on science and their foot-dragging on climate change are breathtakingly irresponsible. North Carolina can and should be a leader in the new economy that is emerging around environmental integrity.
Finally Progress 2006 calls on policymakers to resist the temptation to legislate patriotism, choice, religion and discrimination. Laws that demand obedience to the state or that discriminate against any class of citizen have no place in North Carolina. Legislators should not waste time and resources debating and passing rules that further restrict personal freedoms.
Progress 2006 puts important state and local government issues in focus. Elected leaders open themselves to criticism when they fail to take the long view of public issues. Anyone can cut taxes, starve government and destroy the common good. But it takes thoughtful leaders to study and understand the long-term implications of policy. This agenda shows elected officials can serve the people who elect them.