The News & Observer has been running a timely, important series this week on North Carolina spending billions of dollars on tax breaks with little attention to whether they deliver the jobs and economic growth supporters claimed would result — or otherwise contribute to the common good.
Because they are enacted through the tax code rather than the state budget, various tax breaks for special interests largely evade the annual scrutiny that the rest of state spending undergoes. So each year the state loses precious resources that could have been invested in our schools, roads and bridges, and other services that people and businesses rely on and that help build a strong economy.
In recent years these tax breaks have grown faster than other areas of state spending.
Now, instead doing the real work of reforming our tax code by ending ineffective tax breaks, policymakers are pursuing new tax cuts for the wealthy and businesses that would further damage North Carolina’s ability to invest in education, transportation, and safe communities, For years, experts have agreed that ending wasteful tax breaks for special interests must be a fundamental part of reform, but lawmakers are continuing to take the opposite approach.
It is not impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff. Unproven special interest tax breaks for businesses stand in stark contrast with the Earned Income Tax Credit, for example, which has been proven to reduce poverty and increase success of poor kids as adults. Sorting the effective from the wasteful takes time and resources, but that’s what real tax reform is, and I can’t think of a better way for our lawmakers to spend their time.