A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association alleges a significant increase in lung cancer risk for those exposed to high-levels of particulate matter, commonly called soot. In North Carolina, the news media and others have cited the study to boost support for the proposed Clean Smokestacks bill. But according to expert analysis, the study is so flawed that it should have been rejected by the journal. Moreover, it does not establish a case for new regulation.
To date, debate over the proposed Clean Smokestacks bill has focused primarily on the purported air-quality benefits, which would be negligible. Little attention has been paid to the cost, which could be substantial given North Carolina's already high electricity and tax rates compared to its neighbors'. This study estimates the impact on such institutions as school districts and manufacturers. The higher prices and lost jobs must be weighed against any potential benefits.
Flawed studies and ignorance about North Carolina air quality have given lawmakers and the general public an inaccurate picture of trends in ground-level ozone, or "smog," in some cases exaggerating public exposure by a factor of 10. This study reexamines air-quality data from monitors across the state, concluding that exposure to dangerous ozone levels is surprisingly rare - and is dropping even without passage of the proposed "Clean Smokestacks" legislation.
North Carolina's approach to economic development policy has failed, with the state’s high tax burden, lack of industrial diversity, and hostility to entrepreneurial effort contributing to a painful decline in employment and competitiveness. Public policymakers should rethink their reliance on central-planning models and schemes to subsidize specific businesses or regions. Instead, the state should lower taxes and avoid costly regulatory mistakes like the "Clean Smokestacks" bill.
By the Numbers 2002: What Government Costs in North Carolina Cities and Counties is a publication of the Center for Local Innovation, a division of the John Locke Foundation. Its purpose is to inform North Carolinians about their local governments and promote debate and discussion about the future of city and county fiscal policy in North Carolina. It is not intended to advance or impede legislation before local, state, or federal lawmaking bodies.
The Southern Appalachian Mountain Initiative (SAMI) is a consortium of eight Southeastern states, including North Carolina, and several federal agencies. It is now beginning to publish its research, more than a decade in the making, and will likely help to shape the debate on air quality for years. State policymakers should be cautious in interpreting SAMI data and analyses, however, due to troubling signs that it may not be looking at both sides of the regulatory equation.
According to state economists, North Carolina will face another budget deficit in FY 2001-02 of between $450 million and $900 million. The state's economy, weighted down by high taxes and poor public services, continues to lag behind the rest of the country. Unlike last year, policymakers cannot exempt such big-ticket items as Floyd relief, tobacco-settlement funds, universities, Medicaid, and bonds from scrutiny - and they should consider repealing last year's tax hikes.
Responding to Gov. Jim Hunt's call for $830 million in emergency hurricane relief, state lawmakers have nearly drained the state's rainy day fund. Calls for state tax hikes or a new borrowing binge have only been put off until the 2000 legislative session. But state leaders have no one to blame for the coming budget crisis but themselves. As national data reveal, North Carolina has hiked spending far more rapidly than the average state with little regard for the long-term impact.
A report released last week by the North Carolina Progress Board contained hundreds of long-term goals for the state. But the text was overshadowed by the comments of board member and UNC-W Chancellor James Leutze, who said the report showed North Carolina would never make it to the top tier of states without tax increases. Leutze's remarks were ill-timed and ill-informed but reflect the conventional wisdom about taxes and social progress. It’s wrong.
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