Earlier this morning, members of the House Committee on Government approved the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) bill, which is a constitutional measure that would impose a crippling and arbitrary formula to determine how much we spend on key investments. TABOR would force huge, annual cuts to education, public safety, health care, and other key services that support our economy and quality of life.
TABOR is a solution in search of a problem. North Carolina already has a limit on General Fund spending tied to the projected total state personal income. This limit is tied to what North Carolinians can afford and the health of the economy, preventing expenditures from rising rapidly. But unlike TABOR, it allows North Carolina to regain ground lost during the recession so we can avoid permanent damage to our most important assets. TABOR would lock in the extremely low-levels of spending that have resulted from the Great Recession and harmed our schools, roads, and communities and hampered our ability to recover from the economic downturn.
Supporters of TABOR have overlooked the cautionary tale of Colorado – the only state to implement TABOR – where it caused such deep cuts to key services that business leaders turned against it and voters chose to suspend it. Instead, supporters of TABOR in North Carolina have talked about Oregon. But Oregonians in every county soundly defeated TABOR, leaving the state with a statutory limit that is very similar to what North Carolina already has.
If lawmakers want to keep spending low, they can do so without tinkering with North Carolina’s constitution. In fact, in historical context, North Carolina’s current spending is certainly not out of control. As a share of the economy, General Fund spending is below our average for the past 40 years, and is in fact at the lowest it’s been in four decades.
Bottom line, TABOR is a harmful gimmick that does nothing to reduce the costs of educating our kids or keeping our communities healthy and safe, and it does nothing to ensure that government runs efficiently and tax dollars are well-spent. It will undermine the investments that make our economy grow and that people and businesses in our state rely on, which is why we’ve joined 30 other states in rejecting the idea over and over again. TABOR is the wrong formula for North Carolina’s future.