Last Wednesday’s vote by the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization, essentially imposing an unnecessary and inequitable toll tax on Brunswick and New Hanover County residents to help finance the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge replacement, was depressing enough. But stepping back to look at the larger picture paints an even more depressing landscape — southeastern North Carolina residents are being shafted by our own representatives in the state legislature.
It's time for a change.
Wesley Harris is a state legislator from Mecklenburg County. He’s a Democratic primary candidate for State Treasurer of North Carolina. He has a PhD in economics and understands in detail the financial condition of our state — including the Cape Fear region. Harris has stated the toll issue is “a perfect messaging opportunity for Democrats to illustrate Republican economic policies are making things cost more.”
Here's his message: The corporate and income tax cuts Republicans have approved in recent years are benefiting the wealthy, while fee-based services like toll roads, which the MAGA GOP also favors, are adversely affecting working folks and making life more expensive.
Another example: MAGA Republicans are fully on board with using $400 million in taxpayer funds for private school vouchers — even for high-income families. At the same time, they are refusing to approve sufficient spending for services people need — public education and infrastructure, for example, and we’re all going to pay more because of their dereliction of duty.
Harris believes the legislature could have approved “transformational” schools and road bonds years ago (when interest rates were historically low). But it squandered the opportunity, leaving maintenance and construction of infrastructure unmet, state employees among the lowest-paid in the country, and schools with failing grades.
What’s the impact on Brunswick County residents? Unmet budget needs at the state level will only add to local fiscal pain, including rising property taxes on our homes, burdensome tolls to use our roads and bridges, and forced payments to private and charter schools at the expense of the public schools that 90% of our NC students attend.
And who’s to blame? Look no further than State Sen. Bill Rabon, along with Reps. Frank Iler and Charlie Miller, our extremist Republican legislators who are clearly placing the democracy-damaging MAGA party agenda ahead of their constituents’ needs.
Nothing will change unless we vote legislators like these out of office. Towing the party line at the expense of the greater good will cost them in November.