JLF Research Archive
Showing items 276 to 300 of 485
Wrong Way for a Greenway: Asheboro would place nearly 30 miles of a greenway through citizens’ backyards
The Johnston County Growth Management Committee (GMC) believes that rapid growth has outstripped the county’s ability to keep up with essential public services. To solve this problem, the GMC is recommending "smart growth" policies. The GMC is urging the County Commission to limit home building in rural areas to one home to an average of two acres. This is a 203 percent increase in the average lot size.
Over the past six years, Thomasville’s city owned and operated golf course experienced operational losses of over $3.6 million. With its course, the city engages in unfair competition with 18 private courses in the area. Private golf courses pay taxes that support government services; the city golf course does not. Unlike police and fire protection, golf is not an essential city service. If the course were sold, city taxpayers would gain the amount of the sale and avoid paying its average annual losses of over $600,000 per year. Also, a privately owned golf course would contribute to the tax base of the city and county.
The state of North Carolina levies differing forms of price regulations on a range of what would otherwise be free-market activities. These include controls on wages, gasoline, interest rates, and an unspecified number of prices during disasters and states of emergency. The purpose of this paper is to explain why a free and flexible price system is so important to both social order and the efficient allocation of goods, services, and resources in a free society. Particular emphasis will be placed on North Carolina’s laws meant to regulate prices and the negative effect that these regulations have on both markets and the well-being of the citizens of the state.
There is a consensus on global warming, but it is not the consensus that environmental groups and many in the media suggest. There is no consensus on the extent of future climate change or the extent to which current climate change is human induced or a result of natural variation. The true consensus — where there seems to be no disagreement whatsoever among scientists — is on the proposition that there is no public policy currently being considered to restrict carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by any level of government, including the State of North Carolina, that would have a measurable impact on the climate, either in the short or the long run (a century or longer). That proposition so far remains undisputed. (Revised February 20, 2007.)
Legislative leaders may be planning a nearly billion-dollar tax hike. The state would take one cent of the sales tax from counties and offer them the option to increase the local sales tax by one cent. To make the trade palatable, legislators would stop charging counties for 15 percent of Medicaid, offer an earned income tax credit for low-income workers, and cut the corporate income tax rate. Counties would also have more responsibility and flexibility in funding school and road construction. Legislators should look for savings in the state budget to pay for schools, roads, and Medicaid before passing the cost to taxpayers.
Over the past five years, Mooresville’s city owned and operated golf course experienced operational losses of nearly $450,000. With its course, the city engages in unfair competition with six private courses in the county and 12 more courses in the surrounding area. Private golf courses pay taxes that support government services; the city does not. Unlike police and fire protection, golf is not an essential city service. If the course were sold, city taxpayers would gain the amount of the sale and avoid paying its average annual losses of $90,000 per year. Also, a privately owned golf course would contribute to the tax base of the city and county.
The North Carolina Public Utilities Commission is considering charging an extra fee, separate from existing rates, to electric utility customers. This extra charge will help support what is called a “public benefits fund.” The fund would support programs that have nothing to do with the supply of electricity. Consumers would be required to pay the “fee” if they want to receive electricity, and the more electricity they use, the higher their fee will become. To environmental extremists and other proponents of this extra fee, the use of electricity, which allows us to warm our homes and function in modern society, is a “sin” and needs to be reduced.
As the Triangle grows, motorists face significant increases in traffic congestion. City and county planners are hired, in part, to suggest plans that will alleviate this congestion. Unfortunately, they are doing the opposite. Based on city staff recommendations, city councils in Raleigh and neighboring cities have fallen victim to the latest planning fad: traffic calming. This seemingly worthwhile goal has significant detrimental consequences, including increased traffic congestion, more deaths due to slower emergency vehicle response times, and unnecessary costs to taxpayers.
North Carolina utility consumers may face higher rates for no justifiable reason if extreme mercury regulations are adopted. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is regulating, for the first time ever, mercury emissions from power plants. The purpose is to minimize potentially harmful mercury levels in fish consumed by humans. However, there has never been any documented case in the United States of mercury poisoning from fish. Data linking fish consumption to any type of adverse effect in humans is very weak. In addition, the EPA acknowledges that it does not know the impact mercury emissions from power plants have on the mercury levels in fish. Despite the lack of benefits and the additional costs, North Carolina’s Environmental Management Commission (EMC) is considering whether to adopt regulations which exceed the new and stringent federal standards.
Beginning in 1996, the state implemented a comprehensive program of education testing called the ABCs of Public Education. It did not take long for state leaders to declare North Carolina a national leader in implementing state-level accountability measures. In 1999, then Governor James Hunt declared that, “we’re holding our schools accountable for results. Education Week Magazine says no state is doing more than North Carolina to put in place real and meaningful accountability measures.”
The most critical challenge facing Wake County Public Schools is to find the most responsive, cost-efficient, and timely way to provide seats for a growing student population. In this regard, the school system’s proposed $1.056 billion school facilities spending plan falls short.
Health insurance should act like insurance, not a payment plan for regular medical needs. It should also be available for individuals to purchase in a deregulated market. A high-risk pool for health insurance, as in other insurance markets, would keep premiums affordable for the small percentage of those with significant care needs without raising costs for the entire market. The state of North Carolina should finance any high-risk pool entirely through the General Fund and existing taxes, rather than assessments on insurers or other hidden taxes. Money for a high-risk pool can come from Medicaid savings.
Over the past five years, Sanford’s city owned and operated golf course experienced operational losses of more than $1 million. With its course, the city engages in unfair competition with five private courses in the immediate area and 45 courses within a 30-mile radius of Sanford. Private golf courses contribute to the local government by paying city and county taxes. Unlike police and fire protection, golf is not an essential city service. If the course were sold, city taxpayers would gain the amount of the sale and avoid paying its average annual losses of $200,000 per year. Also, a privately operated golf course would contribute to the tax base of the city and county.
The Triangle Transit Authority (TTA) has been seizing private property for a rail system even though the necessary federal funding has never been secured. In late 2005, as it became clear that the rail was likely a dead project, the TTA still condemned land even though it meant forcing people out of their homes and businesses. TTA’s eminent domain abuse, however, may reach a new level. Through a possible public/private partnership, TTA may start using the already seized private property, and acquire additional private property, for economic development reasons. Unfortunately, current N.C. law may allow for these Kelo-type takings.
The General Assembly is often said to have "tax and spend" policies, but its pattern is one of "spend and tax" policies. During economic booms, tax revenues increase and legislators fund new programs that cannot be sustained during an economic bust. When the bust comes, legislators raise taxes to pay for those new government programs.
For over fifteen years, the Triangle Transit Authority has pursued a regional rail for North Carolina’s capital region, to no avail. At the same time traffic congestion in the Triangle has worsened, with other viable alternatives largely being ignored. Recognizing this, it is important to understand the causes of congestion in order to develop workable solutions to the problem.
Contrary to the claims of school officials and community leaders in Wake County, students do not necessarily perform better in schools that have fewer mobile units or temporary classrooms, more square feet per student, and more acreage. This finding is consistent with national and international research that found no consistent relationship between school facilities and learning. The Wake County Public School System can scale back their multi-billion construction and renovation plans without harm to student learning.
The number of limited English proficient (LEP) students has been increasing for years, but the state’s public schools lack a systematic and proven program to teach English to these children. Reading scores among students who are learning English remain low, especially among high school students. The best way to teach English to North Carolina’s LEP students is through universal training in and adoption of Direct Instruction methods, which is a proven way to teach English as a second language.
North Carolina makes it very easy for illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. Instead of requiring Social Security Numbers to get a license, the state accepts IRS-issued Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs), even though they primarily are issued to illegal immigrants. To make matters worse, the state does not even require that people prove their lawful status in the country. In 2005, the state's own auditor warned against accepting ITINs, yet the legislature still has failed to take any action.
As the debate about immigration continues, all involved need to be aware of the limitations of existing statistics. Hispanics are about 6 percent of the state’s population and growing. Illegal immigrants make up an estimated 45 percent of the state’s Hispanic population, but 76 percent of recent entrants. The economic and government service usage effects of Hispanics on the state are also significant, but the impact of illegal immigrants is less clear.
Economic growth has given the General Assembly $2.4 billion more to spend. Higher sales and income taxes have contributed to this surplus. The Senate adds $1.4 billion in new spending, and relies on nonrecurring revenues for $400 million in new recurring obligations. Drawing on the John Locke Foundation’s Freedom Budget 2005, this paper offers an alternative budget that would end the sales tax and income tax increases from 2001, eliminate Medicaid’s burden on counties, and keep spending growth to 4.3 percent – all within the limit of population growth and inflation.
A careful review of experiences in Raleigh and Charlotte should warn other North Carolina cities that convention and civic center projects are a bad idea.
State government needs pay its employees differently if it wants to keep the best of them. The average state employee earns as much as the average employee nationally, but across-the-board pay raises fail to reward employees for performance. Employees who choose to work for the state are more risk averse and may stay despite a lack of productivity. But these employees merely substitute unseen political risk for visible market risk. The General Assembly should consider more pay for performance and portable benefits for state employees.
Budget proposals from Gov. Mike Easley and the Senate put state spending back on the path of rapid growth last seen in the late 1990s. After inflation, the state will spend 10 percent more per resident on operations in the FY2006-07 than it did just three years ago. Real spending per resident is up 23 percent in the last decade. If the General Assembly had restricted spending growth to inflation and population growth over the decade, the General Fund operations budget would be $3.4 billion less than proposed.