Cloaked in Hawaiian T-shirts with tongues planted firmly in cheeks, leis around necks, cone-shaped party hats on scalps and noisemakers in mouths, members of the progressive Together N.C. coalition threw a send-off party to North Carolina on Wednesday morning on the Halifax Mall, bidding adieu to the state’s ability to thrive, they said.

Together N.C.s Rob Thompson apologizes to South Carolina for mocking the states level of public education funding and says with the North Carolina budget now, The joke is on us.
  • Photo by Joe Schwartz
  • Together N.C.’s Rob Thompson apologizes to South Carolina for mocking the state’s level of public education funding and says with the North Carolina budget now, “The joke is on us.”

Standing around a table with a banner reading “Farewell to NC’s Progress,” members of the coalition decried the decrease in public education funding, the jobs cut, which the N.C. Budget and Tax Center has estimated at 30,000, slashes made in health care, early childhood education and public safety and the “shameful” midnight manner in which the House voted to override Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto.

“We’re here to say what makes this state great is ask risk,” said Louisa Warren, co-coordinator of Together N.C. and a policy advocate at the N.C. Justice Center.

The group handed out “pink slips” and offered cake and lemonade.

Rep. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, stopped by to sign an oversized greeting card that read, “We’ll miss the good times, N.C.”

“Farewell to progress in public education, health care and justice,” she wrote. “The penny that would have kept us going in the right direction is in the corner, leaving thousands of North Carolina’s citizens hurting.’

Others wrote about how they will miss pre-K education and “progress for workers and services for working families,”

The coalition also offered a new take on the state toast, jabbing at the lofty claims by adding in editorial commentary. For instance, “Here’s to the land where the galax grows, where the rhododendron’s rosette glows,” was supplemented with the line, “But now that the Air Toxics Program is gone, I wouldn’t go breathing that rhododendron air if I were you.”

Organizer Rob Thompson, a co-coordinator of Together NC and executive director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children, said though “the deals have already been made” on this year’s budget, events such as Wednesday’s are important to show the public what can happen if they don’t stay vigilant.

“We’re abandoning our commitment to education to health care to public safety all in favor of ideology,” he said. “We thought it was appropriate when you are saying goodbye to anything to have a party.”

He’s hopeful that public outcry will mean the budget is “just a blip in an arc of longer progress,” but he warned that, “if it marks a trend, it’s going to do permanent damage that’s going to take decades to recover from.”

Cautioned Warren, “It’s really easy to shut something down and make it crumple. It’s harder to build it back up.”