North Carolina’s economic success is no secret. CNBC recently named our state No. 1 for business, and the state budget has recently seen surpluses in the billions. This economic boom is attributable to leadership in the North Carolina General Assembly prioritizing fiscal responsibility in budgeting and wise tax policy, making our state attractive for families and businesses. So, what’s the next step for North Carolina to continue its economic advantage? Universal licensure recognition.
Here is an example of how universal licensure recognition would work in North Carolina. A worker, already licensed in a particular field in their home state, moves to North Carolina. The licensed worker has completed the proper training, passed the required examination, is in good standing with their home licensing board, and has held their license for at least a year. Upon arriving in North Carolina, instead of repeating training hours and retaking exams, the relevant licensing board would be directed to grant the worker a North Carolina license if they meet all the requirements and pay applicable fees set forth by the board.
Universal licensure would increase the economic freedom of many workers moving to North Carolina. According to a 2022 CATO Institute report, an average of 22% of workers across all industries are required to have a license. Of the 133,000 new residents who moved to the state between July 2021 and July 2022, about one in five would have to transfer a license into the state. A statewide universal licensure system would make this process much easier for these licensed workers to start working in North Carolina.
Several other states have passed universal licensure programs in recent years. Arizona was the first, and the program has benefited over 4,700 workers since its implementation. According to a report by the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, over the next decade, the state’s universal licensure law will increase employment by at least 15,991 people and increase the state’s gross domestic product by $1.5 billion. Ohio was the most recent state to pass universal licensure, doing so at the beginning of this year.
Recently, North Carolina has taken some meaningful steps to increase occupational freedom. A 2020 Program Evaluation Division report found that, among other things, the occupational licensing regulations are challenging to navigate, boards may not recognize “approximately equivalent” training, licenses take too long to get, and delays can cost families income. The findings of this report galvanized lawmakers to pass legislation recognizing out-of-state licenses for military spouses who move to North Carolina.
Lawmakers accurately identified military spouses’ burdens when transferring their licenses to the state. Nevertheless, North Carolina needs to take the next step to expand the same flexibility to all workers who move into the state with a universal licensure system.
Notwithstanding occupations where licensing is necessary to protect residents’ health and well-being, the overall case for a broad occupational licensing regime falls well short. Consider that out of 1,100 occupational licenses across all 50 states, only 60, roughly 5%, are regulated in each state. The variability between states illustrates how many of these licenses are unnecessary.
Short of repealing licenses which are not demonstrably necessary, carefully tailored, and serve a legitimate health and safety purpose, lawmakers should prohibit state licensing boards from forcing workers who move to our state to duplicate training and retake examinations and instead recognize out-of-state licenses from qualified candidates.
Our state will continue to grow and attract people from all over the country, a large contingent of whom have jobs that require occupational licenses. However, we shouldn’t place additional burdens on those who wish to move here and use their skills and trade to do business in the state.
Workers don’t lose skills when they cross state lines to live in North Carolina. Let’s not punish them for wanting to call North Carolina home. Let’s make our state the next to adopt universal licensure.
Jordan Roberts serves as the Director of Government Affairs at John Locke Foundation.