A one-time, $750 “bonus.” That’s what most North Carolina state employees will get as a “pay increase” as a result of the new budget deal at the General Assembly. That’s about $10 per week after taxes.

Not much, we know, but if the state Senate has its way, such a “raise” may soon seem downright extravagant. That’s because the new constitutional amendments the Senate has proposed to place on the state ballot next year would actually make such a “raise” all but impossible.

As this morning’s lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer explains thoroughly, the so-called “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” or “TABOR” would all but end state government’s ability to address the needs of the citizenry — much less provide meaningful raises to public employees. Indeed, even with this year’s pathetic pay bonus, spending will actually exceed the limits that TABOR would put permanently in place.

As the N&O editorial  puts it:

“It’s absolutely astonishing that despite the failure of TABOR in Colorado, stubborn state Senate Republicans have pushed on with it, almost defiantly ignoring common sense and the business community. Why have many other states considered it and then reconsidered it? Because, after that first flush of thinking it’s a great conservative idea and run-on issue, cooler heads realize it hasn’t worked.”

Let’s hope the cooler heads emerge and take charge here in North Carolina very soon.

In case you missed it the other day, the Charlotte Observer ran one of the best essays yet on the disastrous consequences that North Carolina can expect if the ALEC-inspired “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” becomes embedded in the state constitution and what we ought to do instead.

Leslie WinnerIncrease teacher pay without TABOR

By Leslie Winner

I was talking to the superintendent of a small school system last fall, and she mournfully told me about losing her best high school math teacher to South Carolina, where he would earn $10,000 more per year for doing the same job. We all know young adults who would be good teachers, who would like to teach in North Carolina, and who won’t go into teaching, or who are leaving or won’t come to North Carolina, because we do not pay enough for a teacher’s family to live on. We all know of schools that will open this month without a qualified teacher in each classroom, that are facing a shortage of math, science, and foreign language teachers, because those schools cannot find enough qualified teachers to hire.

Almost all of us in North Carolina deeply believe that our public schools should prepare each child for a meaningful and productive life. Kids are different from each other, and each child deserves to get a year’s worth of growth for a year’s worth of school. Parents also deserve to be confident that their children will finish school prepared for the future. We know that to accomplish this, schools must have good teachers in each classroom and enough up-to-date textbooks and technology.

Since North Carolina is currently significantly behind in providing enough funding for teachers, textbooks, and technology, I was surprised to read that talk of TABOR, the so called “tax-payer bill of rights,” has resurfaced in the legislature. This proposed amendment to the state’s Constitution would both cap North Carolina’s income tax at 5%, helping those with higher incomes, and cost the state $1.5 billion a year in revenue. It would also limit increases in state spending, based on inflation and population growth, limiting North Carolina, effectively, to the amount we are spending now, with no room for improving public schools even in prosperous times.

We are fortunate to have thousands of effective, dedicated teachers in our schools. To keep them, and to attract new ones, we need to recruit smart young adults into the profession, provide the best with prestigious teacher scholarships, prepare them well, respect and support them as teachers, and pay them enough so they can support their families while they work as teachers. Currently, about half our teachers quit in their first five years. If we invested in recruiting, preparing, supporting, and paying them well, more would stay longer, reducing the number we need to hire each year, and allowing us to invest more into recruiting, preparing and supporting the next round of new teachers. Read More

State Rep. Nelson Dollar

State Rep. Nelson Dollar

If you had any doubts about the kind of long-term damage to state government that would be wrought by the ALEC-inspired “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” constitutional amendment (aka “TABOR”) recently endorsed by the North Carolina Senate, take a look at yesterday’s new budget agreement between legislative leaders and the Governor.

As Colin Campbell of Raleigh’s News & Observer reported this morning, the new agreement would provide for growth in state spending of about 3.1% over last year — 0.4% more than the 2.7% that the story reports would have been possible (i.e. the rate of inflation plus population growth) were a TABOR amendment in place.

But here’s the rub: Even with a hike that’s above the TABOR threshold, the new budget will not be able to deliver even the modest and still inadequate pay increases and service improvements that were contained in the House’s version of the budget. This is from Campbell’s article

“While the House called for all state workers to get a 2 percent raise, House senior budget writer Nelson Dollar said that’s now unlikely with less money to spend.

‘It’s $420 million less, so obviously what the House was looking at in terms of raises and in terms of investing in education will not happen,’ said Dollar, a Cary Republican.”

A TABOR constrained budget would, obviously, be even more inadequate.

The obvious and incredibly sobering bottom line therefore: If North Carolina puts TABOR into the constitution,we are all but guaranteed that teachers and other state employees will never get another decent raise again unless the state literally does away with some major function of government to free up the necessary funds.

No wonder Colorado legalized pot. People need something to ease the pain of being the only Americans forced to live under such a disastrous amendment.


Now that experts have had at least a few hours to begin to analyze the North Carolina Senate’s radical ALEC-inspired proposal to impose permanent, constitutional changes to North Carolina’s budget and tax structure, some remarkable findings are emerging.  Consider the following from the numbers wonks at the Budget and Tax Center:

TABOR results“If the spending formula had been in place beginning in 1992, when the only state, Colorado, to have such limits implemented it, North Carolina would have experienced massive and permanent annual losses of revenue and many of our most valued investments of the past two decades would have been impossible to make. For example:

  • A top notch early childhood education program that reaches North Carolina’s kids in all 100 counties and the establishment of pre-Kindergarten programming.
  • A water and sewer line system that serves rural communities and thousands of homes.
  • A workforce training system and targeted economic development that supported rural communities and small towns as they addressed the decline in manufacturing

In fact, 15 percent of the public investments made since 1992 would not have been possible under the restrictive and flawed formula that allows only for population plus inflation growth, failing to take into account changing demographics such as a growing senior population or costs that increase faster than inflation like health care.  In good times and bad times, North Carolina’s investments would have been arbitrarily constrained well below what would have been possible. This type of damage is why Colorado chose to suspend their spending formula.

The impact over the past twenty years would have been even worse in combination with the proposed constitutional cap on the income tax rate at 5 percent. Fewer dollars would have been available to pay for high quality schools, roads and bridges and community economic development to ensure the economy works for everyone in our state.”


This morning, it’s the Fayetteville Observer that’s blasting the North Carolina Senate’s radical plan to enshrine artificial and debilitating spending caps in the state constitution. Here’s the excellent conclusion:

“What happens in the next big financial turndown if revenues drop precipitously and there isn’t enough money to maintain our public schools? Do we just start firing teachers, because a temporary tax increase would be unconstitutional? It could happen.

And what if the condition of our transportation infrastructure continues to decline? What if our roads and bridges and railways become dangerous and need more work than the budget will allow? Do we just shrug, because a larger budget increase is unconstitutional, and let bridges topple and interstate highways crumble?

We’ve had temporary tax increases before, with “sunset” dates attached, and they’ve gone away after the problem was solved. The truth is that North Carolina lawmakers have traditionally been a pretty parsimonious lot, especially when we compare our taxes with those in other regions of the country. We’ve also gotten something out of that spending in the past: a robust economy, a well-educated workforce and, not all that many years ago, a reputation as the “good roads state.”

Putting budget handcuffs on our lawmakers, instead of trusting them to do what we pay them for, could consign all of that to history’s dustbin.”

Click here to read the entire editorial.