by Joseph Coletti
Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies, John Locke Foundation
Wake County Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins overturned two constitutional amendments approved by voters in November, arguing that the General Assembly are “usurpers” who “did not represent the people of North Carolina.” John Hood explains how this fact-free ruling will endanger Democrats and invite “chaos and confrontation.”
In his findings of fact, Judge Collins is simply wrong on a number of points. He states, “Because the amendment places a flat, artificial limit on income taxes, it prohibits the state from establishing graduated tax rates on higher-income taxpayers.” The current tax rate is a flat 5.25 percent. The top tax rate allowed by the amendment is 7 percent. Before 2013, North Carolina’s lowest tax rate was 6 percent and the highest rate was 7.75 percent. If you do the math, you will see that the difference between 6 and 7.75 is 1.75, the same as the difference between 5.25 and 7. This is not to argue that a progressive tax is good, just that there is plenty of room to enact one if politicians so choose.
Judge Collins then claimed
historically in North Carolina, decreased revenue produced by income tax cuts in the state has resulted in significant spending cuts that disproportionately hurt public schools, eliminated or significantly reduced funding for communities of color, and otherwise undermined economic opportunity for the non-wealthy.
This is false on a number of fronts. In the last recession, North Carolina added a high-income surtax and raised the regressive sales tax enough to generate $1 billion in revenue. While raising taxes, the state cut spending on education. Since income tax cuts passed in 2013, spending on public schools has increase from $7.5 billion to $9 billion and the overall budget has climbed from $20.2 billion to $23.9 billion. Clearly not a “significant” spending cut overall and particularly not one that “disproportionately hurt public schools.” It is not clear what criteria Judge Collins used to determine “funding for communities of color” as government programs are not generally based on race. To the extent government spending improves economic opportunity, a debatable proposition in itself, charter schools and opportunity scholarships can provide as much or more of a boost than other programs the judge may have in mind.
In between these spurious facts, Judge Collins insets other claims unconnected to facts, though supported by progressive theories on race, wealth, and privilege.
At least in his findings of fact on environmental regulations the judge makes clear that the opinions he expresses are those of Clear Air Carolina, not “a thing that is known or proved to be true.”