The need for fundamental tax reform in North Carolina has never been more obvious. Unfortunately, Gov. Mike Easley's "tax loophole" commission is incapable of fashioning a sound reform plan. It lacks guiding principles, is using a faulty definition of "loophole," and is more interested in raising tax revenue than reducing tax biases. Policymakers should pursue simplicity, neutrality, and equity through a consumed-income tax and other ways to flatten and reduce tax rates.
Co-authors John Hood and Don Carrington follow up their much-celebrated 1995 report on North Carolina state spending, proposing 179 recommendations for budget savings and tax cuts totalling $725 million. (28 pages-not available online.)
Co-authors Michael Lowrey and Jonathan C. Jordan examine North Carolina transportation policy and recommend ways of improving it without resorting to more taxation, regulation, and government control. (38 pages-not available online.)
By the Numbers 2001: 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.
By the Numbers: Comparing the Cost of Local Governments in North Carolina represents an attempt by the John Locke Foundation to help North Carolina citizens get a handle on the total cost of their local governments.
North Carolina's new Child Health Insurance Program known as Health Choice has grown rapidly in its first two years, attracting national praise and prompting calls for additional funding to enroll more children. But the program, while helping to reduce the uninsured rate, has also contributed to a 30 percent drop in private coverage and self-sufficiency among families of modest means. Significant changes are needed to ensure a better use of taxpayer dollars.
Among the major causes of this year's $800 million state budget deficit is a $108 million increase in projected Medicaid spending. After a brief period of slow growth in the late-1990s, North Carolina's Medicaid program is now a significant threat to the state's long-term fiscal health. It is also the most expensive Medicaid program in the South. The state should enact reforms in eligibility and benefits which could save taxpayers at least $251 million a year.
State policymakers are considering a $43 million request for additional funding for poor school districts and awaiting the resolution of the Leandro school finance case. They should keep in mind that funding disparities among North Carolina school districts are minor due to their primary reliance on state rather than local taxes. Indeed, in inflation-adjusted spending per pupil, the state's 25 poorest districts are better funded today than the 25 richest districts were 11 years ago.
Like taxes, state and local regulations have an enormous impact on the average citizen as well as on businesses, especially small business — the key to job creation in a vibrant economy. In many ways, regulations are a more onerous and hidden way than taxes for the state to take resources out of the private sector to accomplish what is at least a purportedly public objective.
The 1995 session of the General Assembly was unique in the history of North Carolina. After years of rapidly increasing state spending, both Gov. Hunt and the legislature expressed an interest in controlling spending growth and cutting taxes. As a result, operating spending grew by only 1.4 percent in FY 1995-96, by far the slowest rate of spending growth in a non-recession year this century.
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