by Becki Gray
Former Senior Vice President, John Locke Foundation
You are to be commended on another successful session, moving North Carolina to more economic freedom, prosperity and a more limited government. After transformational tax reform, regulatory reform and infrastructure reform, North Carolina’s economy is improving. Our unemployment rate is down, people are getting back to work and businesses are beginning to invest again. Our economy is improving faster and getting stronger compared to our neighbors and to the nation.
Your focus on education reform this session rewards North Carolina teachers with a landmark pay increase. All teachers will see more money in their paychecks this year. Not only have you changed how much teachers are paid, you have changed how teachers are paid. A salary system based on performance in the classroom guarantees every NC student has a good teacher. Good teachers are life changing and very student deserves that opportunity.
Your successes have been many and they have been significant. Don’t blow it.
The final days of the 2014 session have been confusing, contentious and counter to everything we have come to expect from you.
HB1224 is a return to the past and one that was distasteful. It has something the Governor wants but the House has rejected, it has something the Senate wants but the Governor and House don’t and it has something the business community is warning if not addressed could have devastating impacts on job creators. SB 718 and HB189 are “sweeteners” added at the last minute in an effort to make the other palatable.
Each part of this bill should stand alone, with a separate vote.
1. Corporate welfare expansion. Love it or hate it? HB 1224 expands JDIG, JMAC and creates a new Job Catalyst Fund.
2. Local Sales Tax changes. Yes or no? It caps the rate at 2.75. While this may have the effect of helping taxpayers in some urban counties, it makes it more likely that other counties will raise their sales taxes given the broader purposes for which the tax could be levied.
3. Unemployment information confidentiality. Fix it or risk it? The US Dept of Labor has said to fix state law immediately. We’re in compliance and have been. Is that enough? If US DOL decides to impose penalties, businesses across NC will see a $300 per employee increase in their UI tax. Bills go out in Oct. The House has already passed SB 42; with Senate approval, it’s fixed.
4. If the education part of the new budget has an unintended glitch regarding teacher assistants, then by all means fix it. But the fix ought not to be contingent on giving away millions of dollars to favored businesses or encouraging sales-tax increases.
5. If Wake County needs an extension on the time to offer it’s voters a referendum on paying more taxes, give it to them. Add it into #2 above. Or make sure #2 is fair to all counties. Or rethink #2 altogether and reconsider it with further tax reform in 2015.
That’s five bills. If your rules don’t allow you to take them up separately, then comply with the rules. Let it go and craft new legislation next session. If the rules allow you to, consider each one separately. The issues have nothing to do with each other and they ought not be tied together in a sweet and sour package, forcing you to vote for or against because you’re both for and against.
Previous legislatures have done their work this way. We’re counting on you to do better.
Thank you for your leadership.