RALEIGH — Building on positive reforms from the past few years, North Carolina’s elected leaders can take more steps to help boost economic growth, improve education, and fight overregulation. The John Locke Foundation’s new Agenda 2014 Policy Report offers more than 110 recommendations addressing these and other critical public policy goals.
“While in 2013 the legislature made some great strides, there is still more to be done,” said Dr. Roy Cordato, JLF Vice President for Research and Resident Scholar. Cordato and his JLF research staff developed the Agenda‘s recommendations in 36 different subject areas.
“Lawmakers reformed the tax code and cut the overall tax burden for families across the income spectrum, but the state’s tax system still penalizes investment and entrepreneurship in some ways,” Cordato said. “Medicaid and the health care system also need reform. We’ve seen significant advancement in the possibilities of parental school choice, but a great deal still needs to be accomplished, particularly in the areas of curriculum, testing policy, and student achievement.”
JLF has published an Agenda for statewide candidates every other year since 1996. Agenda 2014 offers a resource for elected officials and candidates interested in pursuing policies that promote growth while advancing individual liberty, personal responsibility, and a free-market economy.
“We firmly believe that policies that advance these goals are policies that will create employment opportunities, lower health care costs and improve access, reduce energy costs, and better educate our children,” Cordato said. “Both in the United States and internationally, it has been proven time and again that liberty and prosperity go hand in hand.”
Cordato recommends growth-enhancing policies such as ending state taxes on capital gains and eliminating double taxation of savings and investment returns. “Lawmakers should allow taxpayers to deduct savings and investment from their taxable income, similar to the way individual retirement accounts are treated under the tax code.”
An Agenda section devoted to budget, tax, and economic issues also targets areas such as state government spending. Specific recommendations include a constitutional amendment to limit spending growth, such as a Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
“Lawmakers should set fiscal priorities each year,” said Sarah Curry, JLF Director of Fiscal Policy Studies. “Search the base budget for items or programs to cut if new spending is needed in other areas. Lawmakers also should provide a five-year fiscal note with each budget. It would show the long-term impact of state spending plans.”
Sixteen Agenda entries target education issues, such as prekindergarten programs, charter schools, testing and accountability, virtual schools, controversial Common Core State Standards, and education spending.
“Elected leaders should acknowledge that empirical studies find a weak relationship between education spending and student performance,” said Dr. Terry Stoops, JLF Director of Research and Education Studies. “They should embrace the idea of ‘educational productivity.’ It’s not how much you spend, but how you spend it. Research suggests that spending on classroom instruction offers the most ‘bang for the buck.'”
Health care proposals target issues such as insurance exchanges, certificate-of-need restrictions, and Medicaid reform, and the proposal to expand North Carolina’s Medicaid program.
“Expanding Medicaid would only add more individuals to North Carolina’s dysfunctional medical assistance program,” said Katherine Restrepo, JLF Health and Human Services Policy Analyst. “The state has instead gone forth with reform. Reform should focus on budget predictability, accountability, and personal responsibility.”
After three straight years of state regulatory reforms, the latest JLF Agenda offers suggestions for future legislation.
“Lawmakers should enact a REINS approach in North Carolina,” said Jon Sanders, Director of Regulatory Studies. “The idea is based on federal legislation titled the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act. REINS would require a legislative vote before the government could pursue any rule that would have a major impact on the economy, cause significant cost or prices increases for consumers, or do significant harm to competition, employment, productivity, and other healthy economic activities.”
Among the Agenda items addressing property rights is a recommendation to repeal “quick take,” which is a legal process that allows the government to take title to property under the power of eminent domain without first allowing the affected landowner to have a hearing in court.
“Quick take should be repealed so that all government takings go through the normal 120-day condemnation process,” said Tyler Younts, former JLF Legal Policy Analyst. “That includes the right to a hearing. This would satisfy the requirements of due process. It would also give local governments some incentive to negotiate in good faith with property owners in order to avoid costly court proceedings.”
Agenda 2014 focuses attention on many critical issues elected officials and candidates will face during the rest of this year and in the new legislative term that starts in 2015, said JLF President John Hood.
“North Carolina adopted more free-market and conservative reforms in 2013 than any other state ever has adopted in a single year, but that doesn’t mean the work is complete,” Hood said. “Lawmakers looking for additional ways to promote economic growth and add North Carolina jobs will find plenty of good ideas in Agenda 2014.”
The John Locke Foundation Policy Report, “Agenda 2014: A Candidate’s Guide to Key Issues in North Carolina Public Policy,” is available at the JLF website. For more information, please contact Dr. Roy Cordato at (919) 828-3876 or [email protected]. To arrange an interview, contact Mitch Kokai at (919) 306-8736 or [email protected].