The sign was protesting the NC Senate’s passage of a bill that would, if implemented, dramatically restrict women’s access to safe and legal abortion in North Carolina, but it also referenced the question being heard throughout North Carolina right now: “why aren’t state lawmakers focused on creating jobs?”
“So how does the current legislature’s agenda fit into the state’s image of a modern, moderate state where a smart 21st-century executive would want to invest? Anti-gay laws? Shariah legislation? Guns in bars? Some of the worst-funded public schools and worst-paid teachers in the nation? Shrinking the once proud University of North Carolina’s budget? Harsh anti-abortion legislation? The list goes on.”
The most important “jobs bill” is still working its way through the legislature. The state is the biggest employer in North Carolina, so the state budget has a huge impact on jobs.
Sadly, it looks like budget will actually increase unemployment – especially for women.
Take education, for example: women make up 80% of public school teachers in North Carolina. North Carolina is now 46th in the nation when it comes to teacher pay. In inflation-adjusted dollars, the average salary for North Carolina teachers dropped by 15.7% from 2001-02 to 2011-12.
Both the NC House and Senate budget proposals would dramatically underfund education – by $79.3 million and $135.2 million respectively. These proposed budget cuts will reduce schools’ ability to maintain current service levels – never mind their ability to improve and provide a quality education for every child in North Carolina.
Both chambers failed to include pay raises for state employees, including teachers. Governor McCrory’s budget included a 1% pay increase.
Of course, women aren’t only more likely to be teachers; they’re also more likely to work in many sectors of state government, such as Health & Human Services as social workers and public-health nurses. Women also are more likely to work for private companies that provide services paid for by state funding. For example, women comprise the vast majority of childcare providers in the state’s pre-kindergarten program. The Senate budget would cut 2,500 kids from NC Pre-K next year and 5,000 kids the year after that – on top of the 5,000 Pre-K slots that disappeared in June. That means hundreds of childcare providers will likely lose their jobs. And thousands of low-income parents who rely on NC Pre-K will be on a hunt for a unicorn – quality childcare that they can afford.
Bear in mind, women have had a much harder time recovering from the Great Recession than men. According to NC Women United, “A majority of job gains have gone to men during the recovery, even though women have higher levels of education.” So these budget decisions that disproportionately hurt women are just piling on an existing disparity.
The proposals for tax reform are bad for women, too. Nearly 1 in 5 women in North Carolina live in poverty, and the tax proposals actually increase taxes on low-income families [link: http://www.ncwu.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Why-Cutting-or-Eliminating-the-Personal-and-Corporate-Income-Taxes-is-Bad-for-Women_BTC-Factsheet2.pdf]. Furthermore, “Tax preferences that benefit many women and female-headed households—such as the state child tax credit, the child care credit, and the earned income tax credit—would be eliminated alongside the elimination of the state personal income tax.”
Higher taxes, fewer jobs, and fewer supports for families working hard to make ends meet– that, apparently, is what North Carolina leaders call “job creation.”