Save Money in this Sunday's paper

N.C. Opinions: Greensboro

comments

Tempting as it may be, don’t limit lawmakers

From an editorial Friday in the (Greensboro) News & Record:

It might be true that some politicians just can’t help themselves. They always want to spend more money. Should they be barred from doing so?

That’s the approach state Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, takes in his “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” that’s waiting for action in the legislature. It proposes a constitutional amendment putting a tight limit on annual budget increases. From an established baseline, expenditures could rise each year only according to a “fiscal growth factor” – the average sum over the previous three years of inflation and population change. The concept is so complicated that the yes-or-no proposition put on the ballot would require 109 words.

The flaws are easier to understand. First, this would steal from each legislature the responsibility to adopt a budget without prior constraint. Why shouldn’t lawmakers increase spending by 3 percent one year if they think it’s important, even if the “fiscal growth factor” is 2 percent?

The proposed amendment says they can, but only with two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate – contradicting the principle of majority rule.

Furthermore, this formula doesn’t accurately portray the state’s needs. For example, if the population holds steady but children make up a greater share of it, more spending for schools will be required.

And what happens if a rush of prosperity lifts the tide of tax revenue? Should the legislature not be able to raise spending a bit to make up for lean times? This proposal says such a windfall would trigger an automatic refund to taxpayers. Poor schools would have to stay poor, even if the state were growing wealthier.

The problem isn’t that legislatures should not spend taxpayers’ money carefully and set tax rates at fair levels. It’s that they are elected every two years to make those decisions. They should not be bound by artificial formulas and forced to tell constituents they’re simply unable to address current needs or adapt to changing circumstances. Good governing, like leadership in any endeavor, demands constant reassessment and flexibility. This measure would mire tomorrow’s legislatures in budgetary quicksand.

The bill hasn’t yet advanced in the legislature because of uncertainty about tax reform and next year’s budget. It should not go anywhere. If it does gain legislative favor, it then would have to be approved by voters in a statewide referendum.

But this really isn’t a “Bill of Rights” for taxpayers. It’s a dodge by legislators.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more



Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more


Quick Job Search
Salary Databases
Your 2 Cents
Share your opinion with our Partners
Learn More
CharlotteObserver.com