JLF Agenda 2012 Offers Road Map For Sound Policy | Eastern North Carolina Now

North Carolina's next set of elected leaders can boost taxpayers' job prospects, help educate their children better, and protect them from overly high taxes and burdensome regulations.

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   Publisher's note: The article below was prepared by the Carolina Journal staff, an originally appeared in the Carolina Journal, which, because of Author / Publisher Hood, is inextricably linked to the John Locke Foundation.

Biennial report covers more than 30 issues in detail

    RALEIGH     North Carolina's next set of elected leaders can boost taxpayers' job prospects, help educate their children better, and protect them from overly high taxes and burdensome regulations. The John Locke Foundation's new Agenda 2012 Policy Report offers more than 100 recommendations addressing these and other critical public policy goals. (For a link to the document, click here.)

    "During the 2012 campaign season, candidates for public office in North Carolina are faced with a daunting task: developing informed positions on dozens of public policy issues," said Roy Cordato, JLF vice president for research and resident scholar. "Agenda 2012 is designed to help those candidates, with a series of recommendations that advance individual liberty, personal responsibility, and a free-market economy."

    The latest in a series of Agenda reports published every two years since 1996, this year's edition offers more detailed analysis of a wider range of topics, Cordato said. "We have 35 separate issue entries covering about 66 pages of a more than 70-page document," he said. "We decided that it would be more useful to cover some issues with greater specificity than in 2010."

    For example, JLF researchers have replaced a general discussion of tax reform with separate items on North Carolina's sales tax and personal and corporate income taxes.

    "North Carolina should adopt a sweeping reform of its personal income tax," Cordato said. "The current rate structure should be collapsed into a single low, flat rate in order to diminish the bias against work effort and self-improvement geared toward income advancement. Meanwhile, the state should repeal the corporate income tax."

    In addition to specific tax reform ideas, Cordato explores policies that promote economic growth. That's one piece of an Agenda section devoted to the state budget, taxation, and the economy. That section also addresses tax burdens, federal aid, unfunded government liabilities, and state spending restraint.

    "Add a Taxpayer Bill of Rights amendment to the state constitution that limits annual state spending growth to no more than the projected growth of inflation and population," recommends Fergus Hodgson, director of fiscal policy studies. "The amendment should allow spending growth to exceed the cap only if approved by public referendum. Such a spending cap would halt four decades of government growth and better align the long-term interests of taxpayers to the short-run interests of politicians."

    Nearly a third of Agenda 2012 focuses on education-related issues, including public school finance, student achievement, school choice, early childhood education, and testing policy.

    "The State Board of Education should reconsider adoption of the Common Core State Standards," said Terry Stoops, director of education studies. "North Carolina's adoption of the Common Core standards is a testament to the growing influence of the federal government in matters that traditionally -- and constitutionally -- have been the responsibility of state and local governments. The General Assembly should approve legislation that protects North Carolina's curriculum and standards from undue federal intrusion."

    Now that North Carolina has lifted its arbitrary cap of 100 public charter schools statewide, Stoops lists several other reforms to charter school regulations.

    "Legislators should eliminate regulations that require charter schools to employ a minimum percentage of certified teachers," he said. "The state should permit successful charter schools to replicate themselves through a special review and approval process."

    In a section devoted to government regulation, JLF experts urge lawmakers to expand regulatory reform efforts. Agenda 2012 also recommends amending the state constitution to protect property owners from eminent domain abuse.

    "As lawmakers increase property owners' protection against eminent domain abuse, they should prohibit property takings for economic development purposes," said Jon Sanders, director of regulatory studies. "They also should impose on government the burden to prove that a taking is for a public use, that a property designated as 'blighted' really is blighted, and that compensation for property takings is just. The concept of 'just compensation' should include relocation costs, attorneys' fees, and loss of business good will."

    Topping the Agenda's list of environmental issues is a discussion of hydraulic fracturing -- fracking -- for natural gas in shale rock formations. "Policymakers should allow hydraulic fracturing and energy exploration in North Carolina," Sanders said. "State officials should study best practices in states that have worked through regulatory issues regarding fracking, but the state should not block a potentially strong source of job creation, energy affordability, and economic growth."

    Researchers devote attention to health care reform, compensation for victims of North Carolina's eugenics-based forced sterilization program, privatization of government services, and transportation issues.

    "Lawmakers should end state funding of rail transit projects and repeal the half-cent local-option sales tax authorization for rail transit," said Michael Sanera, director of research and local government studies. "Meanwhile, lawmakers should stop transferring funds from the state's Highway Trust Fund to its General Fund. While smaller amounts have been transferred recently, this practice diverts much-needed funds away from highway construction and maintenance."

    Agenda 2012 focuses attention on many of the critical issues a new governor and state lawmakers will face when they convene in Raleigh in January 2013, said JLF President John Hood. "Too often, elected leaders try to solve problems by taking more money and freedom away from their constituents," Hood said. "This Agenda 2012 offers dozens of ideas to address the same problems while preserving freedom and promoting individual liberty."
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