As hundreds of bills are filed in the General Assembly, I ask: What problem are lawmakers trying to solve? If there is one, what should government do about it?
For years, people around the state have discussed the best dates for schools to start and to stop. Lawmakers, as of press time, have filed 17 bills this session addressing school flexibility.
We should allow school districts to decide what works best for their communities and for their students. The needs, for example, are different in New Hanover, Wake, and Polk counties.
The same can be said for the problems of teacher aides, classroom sizes, and textbook and digital spending. Raleigh issues orders when the solution may be for state government to do less — issue block grants to local districts and allow them to choose.
When the N.C. education lottery was enacted 12 years ago, proponents claimed the state wasn’t’ spending enough on education — as opposed to thinking about what the effects of that spending may be.
Per pupil spending at the time was at an all-time high of $6,300. The recession hit, and adjustments were made. We’ve spent $500 million more on education than last year, bringing average teacher pay to $50,000, and tripling textbook spending since 2013. Accountability measures focused on outcomes in the classroom instead of inputs.
Turns out, state-sanctioned gambling isn’t a solution.
What happens when government doesn’t keep promises? When the lottery passed in 2007, 54 percent of the proceeds went to prizes, and 35 percent to education. Today, 64 percent goes for prizes, and only 24.5 percent goes for education. Over the years, lottery proceeds have supplanted regular education funding, have been transferred into the General Fund, and reverted from school construction funds (albeit later replaced).
More lottery tickets are sold in low-income counties. Get government out of the gambling business, restore responsible education funding in the budget — making it the priority it needs to be, as well as transparent and accountable.
Restrictive occupational licensing laws are keeping people away from their chosen professions. It’s particularly problematic for military spouses who hold a non-transferable certification or license in another state. Senate Bill 8 would allow military families to practice under licensure from another state while they transition to requirements in North Carolina. A complete review of all occupational licenses — repealing, reforming, and moving to certification where possible — would be better.
It’s a problem when government officials blatantly ignore or flaunt the law. The states’ open meetings and public records laws were disregarded during a meeting of the Military Affairs Commission. Larry Hall, the governor’s appointee for secretary of the Military and Veteran Affairs Division, oversaw the meeting, which wasn’t advertised. The agenda wasn’t made public, the only reporter at the meeting was asked to leave, and the chairman removed an item from the agenda before putting it back when the reporter left.
North Carolina has some of the weakest public records and open meetings laws in the country. Senate Bill 77 would make violations of those laws a class 3 misdemeanor.
Is there something standing in the way of entrepreneurship, creating small businesses that create most of the jobs, and economic growth? Less government is better, and transformational reforms in taxes, regulations, infrastructure and education since 2011 have strengthened the state’s economy. The less burden government is on business the more economic growth occurs. Taxing capital gains is a double taxation on investment in capital assets and biases investors against making such investments.
That’s a problem. A complete repeal of the capital gains tax would be a $500-million revenue hit, so phasing it out over several years, maybe with revenue triggers, may be more practical.
What’s the problem? Often, it’s government itself. Less is better.
Becki Gray is senior vice president of the John Locke Foundation.