Lawmakers in Washington haven’t accomplished a whole lot this year and as Congress returned from their August recess earlier this month they still had many important issues to tackle, from tax reform, to immigration, to health care. If they’re looking for lessons on how to effectively legislate, the Tar Heel State provides a prime example.
This year, North Carolina legislators advanced free speech and opportunity and created a brighter economic future for all our residents.
Because lawmakers in Raleigh worked together, our campuses will once again become a marketplace of ideas and students will have an appreciation for civil discourse. Legislators took great strides toward protecting free speech on University of North Carolina campuses when they passed a bill—that became law on July 31 without the governor’s signature—requiring the university system to encourage a diversity of views on campus and protect students’ fundamental right to free speech. North Carolina graduates will be equipped with greater critical thinking skills and fully prepared for the world they encounter upon entering the workforce.
Our kids will also have better educational opportunities.
Lawmakers established the North Carolina Personal Education Savings Account Program, providing grants to children with special needs to pay for educational expenses like tutoring, therapy, and non-public school tuition. And they increased funding for the Opportunity Scholarship Grant Fund Reserve, further empowering students and their families to choose the school that best meets their learning needs.
Lawmakers also saw to it that young North Carolinians who make bad decisions will not be denied a better future. Legislators “raised the age” so that by December 2019, 16 and 17 year-olds suspected of misdemeanor offenses and less serious felonies will be tried as juveniles instead of adults. Giving adolescents a second chance can break the cycle of repeat offenses that send young people to prison again and again. Without an adult criminal record, adolescents will have better future employment opportunities and a more positive outlook, making them less likely to turn to a life of crime.
But there’s more than protecting civil liberties to brag about.
Since 2013, when state legislators embarked on their mission to lower taxes and restore fiscal responsibility, North Carolina has catapulted from 44th to 11th on the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index. We’re also third in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Rich State, Poor State economic outlook, and we were just named the most competitive state in the country.
And it’s getting even better. This year, lawmakers cut corporate taxes and raised the standard deduction for individuals; combined with the repeal of a mill machinery tax, this amounts to $3.6 billion in tax cuts over the next five years.
With more money in our pockets, we can invest and put away funds for important things like buying a home or pursuing higher education.
But they didn’t just lower taxes, lawmakers also kept spending under control. Thanks to their commonsense budget, our rainy day fund is $1.84 billion, the highest in our state’s history—we call this adulting.
Today, our state remains the best place for millennials to work, learn, and raise a family.
Washington could certainly learn a thing or two from North Carolina. If Congress accomplishes even half of what our state lawmakers did this year, all Americans will be better off.
Anna Beavon Gravely is the North Carolina spokesperson for Generation Opportunity.