The latest warning about the proposed Taxpayer Bill of Rights comes from the editorial board of the Fayetteville Observer.
Editors warn in Friday’s paper that the proposed constitutional amendment (that must still pass the House) might sound alluring, but would have many unintended consequences:
The concept is a lot like mandatory sentencing, which took away judges’ discretion, resulted in overcrowded jails and took away opportunities to rehabilitate offenders before they became career criminals. The concept ignored unintended consequences, which have been costly.
There is similar naivete at work in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. State Treasurer Janet Cowell says the measure could imperil North Carolina’s triple-A bond rating and boost the cost of borrowing.
But the fallout could be much worse than that. For hints, we can look at Colorado, whose voters approved a similar amendment more than two decades ago.
An official of the Colorado Fiscal Institute says his state has found the bill of rights to be “a complete and unmitigated disaster.” Tim Hoover told the Public News Service that “The only good news to come out of it is that Colorado has served as an example of what not to do.” One of the biggest problems there has been with education funding. The tax-increase limits have led to a decrease in per-pupil spending in education and dropped the state to 50th in spending on higher education. Doesn’t North Carolina already have enough problems with education funding?
Like many across-the-board spending limits (federal budget sequestration comes to mind), the formula in the bill of rights is simplistic and inflexible. It considers average population growth, but doesn’t consider growth in segments of the population, like children or the elderly, that might have more costly needs.
What we really need to do is let our lawmakers do the jobs we pay them to do – to run the state effectively and efficiently, and to appropriate what it takes to get it done. They stand for a performance review every two years and that’s where we should make decisions about their spending plans.
The full editorial can be read here.