Opinion: Daily Journal

Legislature Keeps On Rolling Back Bad Laws

News flash from the Left: The new legislative leadership is rolling back years of laws made under the old leadership.

This is a surprise? Were these folks not paying attention during the election when conservatives promised smaller government with lower taxes, more accountability and transparency, fewer regulations, and less bureaucracy? Think free market, competition, and personal responsibility. Elections have consequences, and new leadership brings new ideas.

There’s a different management team in charge of state government for the first time in more than a century. Our friends on the Left assert that things have been hunky-dory across North Carolina — that the size of government is just right, we’re spending just the right amount of money, that the tax system is fair enough, that an 80 percent graduation rate is good enough, and that layers and layers of bureaucracy are an efficient way to manage state government.

Well, sorry friends. Things are broken in North Carolina, and the fix-it gang has been called in.

The past growth of state government has outpaced the growth of population and inflation and is unsustainable. Years of new programs, higher taxes, regulations, and more and more government have made us less competitive, slowed growth, and stymied economic recovery.

A new path includes a budget that provides for core functions of government with no new taxes, no new debt, no new programs, and replenishing the state’s savings accounts. Allowing hard-working families to keep more of their money incentivizes investment and entrepreneurship. A robust economy and job creation will happen with less government, not more.

Oppressive debt is being addressed by scaling back unemployment benefits from being the most generous in the Southeast to comparable with our neighbors so we can pay back a $2.4 billion debt to the federal government and get our own fiscal house in order.

When something works, you keep it. When studies say it doesn’t work, dump it and find what does work. Studies show pre-K programs work for economically disadvantaged children. Rather than fund them for all children, let’s put our money where we know it works.

Same with reading assistants — they work in kindergarten and first grade; let’s put the money there and use the rest in other areas we know will get results. Just because we’ve “always” had teacher assistants in other grades doesn’t mean that’s the best use of resources.

Our tax system is outdated, unnecessarily complicated, and a drag on our economy. Reforms would flatten the personal income tax and lower the rate below that of our neighbors, eliminate or reduce the corporate income tax, and expand the sales tax. The General Assembly’s nonpartisan fiscal research staff tells us that just about every taxpayer in North Carolina would pay less, and a dozen or so economic studies tell us these reforms would stimulate our economy, creating jobs and long-term benefits.

Medicaid is 15 percent of our state budget and is the fastest-growing segment. Recent audits reveal hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted or misspent. Cost containment has not been a priority, and oversight has been lacking. Care is expensive with low patient outcomes.

Badly in need of reform, changes to Medicaid would empower recipients to make health care decisions that fit their needs, lead to healthier lives, and save taxpayers money.

Nonprofits with publicly funded slush funds run by political operatives have to go. The N.C. Biotechnology Center was set up in 1984, The Rural Economic Development Center in 1986, the N.C. Natural Heritage Trust Fund in 1987, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund in 1996, the Golden LEAF foundation in 1999, and the Biofuels Center in 2007. They have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to state agencies, local governments, and individuals with little transparency or accountability.

If these groups are funding legitimate uses of taxpayer money that deliver value to the public, let’s make their actions open and transparent.

The Racial Justice Act was enacted in 2009 to use statistical data to impose a de facto moratorium on the death penalty. The death penalty in North Carolina is constitutional. If North Carolinians want to repeal the death penalty, it deserves an honest debate. Now we can have it.

For 50 years, North Carolina municipalities were allowed to annex property against the owners’ will, forcing them to pay higher taxes for services they may not have wanted or needed. And those citizens had no say so in the matter.

Under the new leadership, those unfair forced annexation laws were rolled back, ensuring that property rights in North Carolina are safe and respected.

Our friends on the Left are correct. The new leadership in Raleigh is rolling back many of the old laws — years of big government and big taxing decisions. And I, for one, say keep on rolling.

Becki Gray (@beckigray) is vice president for outreach at the John Locke Foundation.