Irrational fears of legislative reform in North Carolina

After decades of expanded state government, increased debt, higher taxes, excessive regulation and political cronyism by “progressive” legislators and governors in North Carolina, mildly conservative people now control the state legislature and administrative offices in the Tarheel State. But it’s difficult to scrape the imbedded tar from the political process. (link)

Predictably, statist groups—supported by press organizations—angrily denounce the new management and shriek in fear that their political scared cows may be led to a slaughter house of reduced spending; some even predict “mind control” (already firmly entrenched from the Left) in our schools.

Funding with no budget increases, or even suggestions of program review and reform sends the leftists into hysterical fits about the GOP driving the State “hard to right.” (link)

A rational and objective look at the state legislature’s “Reform Agenda,” however, paints quite a different picture. The untold story reveals needs and legislative actions necessary to help create a more balanced, accountable state government—incidentally, that most North Carolinian voters agree with.(link)

Becki Gray with the John Locke Foundation (, a relatively conservative think-tank in Raleigh, reviewed the situation in the Spring 2013 “Locke Letter” (not available online). She says that the first legislated bill this year expands career and technical education. Terry Stoops, JLF director of education studies, has made recommendations that support career-oriented education for students who may not want (or be able to afford) four-years of resident college.

Naturally, this threatens Big Government Ed lobbyists, especially public university administrators focused on unlimited ivy-covered empires.

Ms. Gray cites another bill that responsibly deals with our previously ignored unemployment insurance problem. This vote-getting program has saddled state taxpayers with a $2.4 billion debt increasing able-bodied worker’s dependency on government. (link) Next came legislation to reject an Obamacare state-based exchange and control the expansion of Medicaid; financial threats that would impose a huge new costly bureaucracy on us and potentially bankrupt the state.

Predictably, heavily subsidized health care beneficiaries and their lobbyists rolled out warnings of death and destruction should these programs be prevented or kept fiscally sound.

Although these actions by our legislators have helped turn the titanic ship-of-state away from collision with the looming fiscal iceberg, we need much more reform on taxes, budget and education if we hope to be taxed within our means.

Tax reform threatens to gore herds of oxen grazing across the State. Current legislation proposals tinker “piecemeal” with numerous taxes, writes Ms. Gray. She cites a “comprehensive approach” found in a JLF plan that replaces income taxes with a consumption flat tax. With it everyone would have “skin-in-the-game” more fairly all of us paying the same rate on purchase choices. Gray predicts job creation would “flourish.”

But, again, groups that now benefit from the current system (e.g. people who pay little or no income taxes) would descend on Raleigh with verbal pitchforks.(link)

Ms. Gray says Gov. McCrory’s $20.6 billion budget is a good start for fiscal responsibility: no new taxes, no additional debt, no major new programs and $600 million in reserve. And McCrory ends raids on the Highway Trust Fund. His budget also removes $75 million from control of “unaccountable boards” and bureaucrats handing out cash in such boondoggles as the Golden Leaf (fleece) fund and economic development colluding connivances between business and government.(link)

Money is being wasted on selective government-subsidized “jobs” projects (e.g. the film industry in Wilmington) as well as on myriad land preservation schemes. Dozens of “conservation” activists demand that the State continue to siphon money from the private sector (taxpayers) so they can lock up more land in unproductive uses.(link)

The JLF proposal would cut state spending by more than $1 billion over two years. Lots of luck with that. Rationality can’t counter the forces of unreasoned emotion.

Hundreds of statist groups, egged on by press reporters and editors, rally to declare that the evil Republicans want to deprive the public schools; let the destitute die in the streets; deprive college students from an entitled education; propose “bruising cuts” for wildlife bureaucracies, (link) and generally regress “quality-of-life” in North Carolina as they see government providing it.


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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