Amendment to limit state government deserves vote of the people

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By Robert Harris, Research Director
Carolina Partnership for Reform

RALEIGH — Who owns the government? The people? The media?

Conservative reformers in the State Senate have passed a Constitutional Amendment limiting the growth of government spending to no more than inflation plus population increase. It keeps politicians from jacking up spending without any restraint. It’s appropriately called the Taxpayer Protection Act.

Since the Taxpayer Protection Act is a Constitutional Amendment, it must be approved by the voters. And 74 percent of Republicans, 52 percent of unaffiliated voters and 49 percent of Democrats supported it in our recent poll. Overall, the Taxpayer Protection Act is favored 58 percent to 27 percent.


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Well, that broad support for spending limitation doesn’t square with the easy-spending philosophy of the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer. And if the people might vote for the Taxpayer Protection Act, then by golly, the Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer don’t want a vote.

The newspapers claim a similar spending limit in Colorado was so bad the people suspended it in 2005. And they say the N. C. House shouldn’t dare let our voters decide if we want it here.

For the record, Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights is not the same thing as North Carolina’s proposed Taxpayer Protection Act.

In Colorado, TABOR capped the annual increase in state revenues and refunded excessive collections to the people. The voters can suspend the law during fiscal emergencies.

But even since voters put a handcuff on the power of Colorado’s politicians to tax and spend back in 1992 under Colorado’s TABOR – which goes further than the proposed Taxpayer Protection Act – Colorado taxpayers have received $2 billion in refunds.

Contrary to what the media want us to believe, the Colorado law is still in effect.

And no. Colorado’s schools haven’t shut down. Under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, spending per student is higher even after inflation — not lower.

With a Constitutional brake on unrestrained spending by politicians, Colorado’s economy outgrew the country average in per capita income.

The Taxpayer Protection Act is a sensible way to keep politicians from overspending. It makes them set priorities instead of throwing money everywhere. The Senate just passed a budget raising teacher salaries an average $6,000 within the sound fiscal limit of the Taxpayer Protection Act. But elections can change things and our economy can gain from long-term fiscal responsibility.

While the Taxpayer Protection Act is a debatable issue, something else isn’t debatable. The people own the government. Not newspaper editorial writers or politicians.

It’s time for the House to let the people vote on the Taxpayer Protection Act.

Editor’s note: Carolina Partnership for Reform is a public benefit organization that conducts policy research and educates the public about freedom-based policy reforms and initiatives in order to further individual liberty, promote economic growth, and improve education in North Carolina.

 

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