Public Works began working with leaders and organizations in North Carolina shortly after its founding in 2004. Public Works partnered with the NC Justice Center and Blueprint North Carolina to host several training’s over a five year period. So when state tax revenues plummeted after the start of the 2008 recession, advocates were ready to respond. Under the umbrella name of Together North Carolina, a coalition of over one hundred organizations launched an intensive campaign to persuade state lawmakers to fill a portion of the over $2 billion budget shortfall with additional revenues. They succeeded.
The groups placed advertisements in local newspapers highlighting the role that public structures play in communities, sponsored phone banking to put engaged citizens in touch with their respective representatives, held rallies at the capitol and elsewhere, and hosted community meetings at which residents explained how they would be impacted by proposed budget cuts. Throughout the campaign the groups maintained a consistent message that was aspirational and effectively made the case for a broad array of public systems.
In the years since 2008, the coalition has remained active and continues to be a source of innovative examples of how to tell a positive and forward-looking story about the role of government even in the face of a changing political environment. Among other strategies, the group has produced videos and animations documenting the importance of state-funded public programs, and sponsored a Backwards Budget 0.5K Race to draw attention to the ways in which policy proposals under consideration would move the state in a backwards direction.
In 2011, a newly elected set of state leaders took office and decided to allow allowed the temporary tax increase enacted in 2008 to expire but by that time revenues were growing again (albeit not enough to replace the loss). But there is no doubt that the additional revenue during the worst years of the fiscal downturn enabled the state to maintain some of its investments in education, health care and environmental protection.