SCOTT MOONEYHAM: On Abortion, Easley Seeks Middle Ground
Gov. Mike Easley has never worn his Catholicism on his sleeve.
Perhaps that's simply who he is. Or his behavior may be the result of growing up in the South during an era when many white Protestants were neither kind nor open to Catholics.
Whatever the case, Easley is backing a proposal that has become increasingly popular among Catholic Democrats looking for some middle ground between the pro-life and pro-choice camps in the abortion debate.
Easley, for a second straight year, says he will include in his state budget plan a proposal to provide a state tax credit for the parents of adoptive children.
The state tax credit would be worth 50 percent of the existing federal adoption tax credit. Under the federal tax break, parents receive a one-time credit worth up to $10,630 for each adoptive child.
Around the country, Catholic Democrats have pushed similar proposals as they attempt to negotiate the tenets of their faith and the politics of their party.
Fifty-five Democrats in the U.S. House signed a "Statement of Principles," explaining how their faith influences their politics.
The statement, at least in part, was a response to the attacks in 2004 on Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry by some Catholics, who said his faith and position on abortion were incompatible.
Earlier this year, U.S. House Democrats, pushed primarily by pro-choice Catholics, also backed legislation to increase the federal adoption tax credit and boost spending on pregnancy prevention counseling.
Several congressional candidates picked up the plan and ran with it during the fall election.
Given Democrats' success in the election, the ideas encompassed in the plan will probably continue to reappear in legislation and in political strategy. It provides Democrats a way to show that they too want to foster "a culture of life."
During a recent interview, Easley acknowledged that he sees a state adoption tax credit in the same light.
"I think that this is one thing that everybody ought to be able to agree on," he said, sitting with a group of Raleigh-based reporters. "The adoption tax credit, I think, would help an awful lot of people."
Equally important, he said, it would send a message that state leaders want to do more than use the issue as a political wedge and instead help provide real choices to real people.
It would do so with a relatively inexpensive price tag. The one-time, per-child credit would cost an estimated $3 million a year.
Legislative budget writers, though, say Easley never pushed very hard for the tax credit last year, raising questions about whether the proposal isn't really just more political posturing.
Perhaps, though, the measure got lost in the shuffle while more pressing budget issues -- Easley's early childhood education initiatives and high school reform plans -- took precedence.
It will be interesting to watch in the coming year whether it becomes a higher priority, for Easley and state lawmakers.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association. Contact him at email@example.com
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