If you are like me, you aren't happy with the direction North Carolina is headed. Our state legislators have run amuck with reckless spending, increased taxes, and regulating businesses to the point of paralysis. And to make matters worse, they appear completely clueless in addressing our record high levels of unemployment. If you've had enough and are ready for a change, please continue reading about how I will address these matters if I am elected.
Finding work in State House District 6, and most anywhere in North Carolina, is very difficult due in large part to the incompetence of our state legislators. Beaufort County’s unemployment rate as of December 2009 is 11.9%, up a half point from the previous month and continuing the year long level at over 11%. The rate for North Carolina is 11.2% and 86 of 100 counties increased their unemployment rates in December. During 2009 the state rates held near 11%.After reviewing 34 years of NC unemployment rates, I found that the current unemployment rates are the worst during that entire period. Statewide Unemployment Insurance benefits paid in 2009 were $4.8 billion, about a 4th of the state budget.
What the unemployment rates don't take into consideration is the workers that have given up looking for work and those that have only managed to find part-time work. If you include the workers who gave up on finding a job and those who could only find part-time work, these rates grow to a level that means about every 5th to 6th house has an unemployed worker. This accounts for some of the highest unemployment rates on record for the state of North Carolina.
So, what did our democrat controlled state legislators do in response to this great loss of jobs? They passed a bloated budget that is 30% higher than 5 years ago. They raised our taxes $1.1 billion dollars with taxes that affect both businesses and individuals alike. In addition to this, they proposed and passed legislation that increased uncertainty in the markets and costs to businesses.
Raising taxes and inhibiting small businesses from growing is the wrong approach - the solution is quite the opposite. We can get people back to work by reducing the size of government and state spending which will allow us to lower taxes. We can eliminate unnecessary regulations to liberate small businesses and give them more room to grow. In the state of North Carolina, the majority of jobs are created through small business. We can enable small business to thrive and create more jobs in a low tax, reduced regulation and small government environment.
Spending in North Carolina has been out of control for a long time but last year our General Assembly achieved a new pinnacle of budgeting incompetence. Accounting for inflation, our state budget has been growing at 3 times the rate of population growth. During last year’s recession, our legislators approved a budget that is 30% higher than it was five years ago. This bloated $20.7 billion budget includes $1.69 billion in federal stimulus funds and increases actual spending over 2008 - 09 by one billion dollars.
And what budget items were of such importance that they had to be funded in the middle of a recession? Here is some of the more egregious planned spending of our tax dollars. This budget includes $17.5 million for grants for local cultural activities, $13.9 million for Public TV, $11.1 million for tourism, film and sport development, $10.3 million for aquariums, $10 million for out-of-state athletic scholarships, $8.6 million for NC Arts Council, $2.9 million for NC Symphony and $1.1 million for a botanical garden. This kind of irresponsible spending has resulted in one of the largest tax increases in state history.
This kind of spending cannot be sustained and is not good for our citizens. We must dramatically reduce spending and the size of government in our state. So that we can lower taxes and encourage small business to produce the jobs that are key to our economic health. We must require our state agencies to use “zero budgeting” and prioritize their planned spending and have the courage to force our legislators to reduce our budget each year until we have a healthy economy again.
Last summer the democrat dominated General Assembly raised North Carolina taxes $1.1 billion while the state was struggling with a recession and unemployment of 10 – 11%. This 6% increase is one of the highest in our state’s history and included are increases in state sales tax, income tax and “sin” tax. The sales tax increase is enough to make North Carolina the eighth highest sales tax in the country. Our income tax burdens now include a surcharge for both individual and business income. “Sin” taxes on alcohol and tobacco are increased and burden the poor and middle class the most.
According to the National Council of State Legislatures, North Carolina is pretty much alone in its choice to impose major tax hikes to balance its budget. No other southeastern state raised even one of its income, sales or corporate taxes in 2009. The Tar Heel State was already being squeezed economically by possessing some of the highest such taxes in the region and now will be further identified as a high tax state in a relatively low tax region. North Carolina is 39th on the list of business climates in the nation as reported by The Tax Foundation. The state also ranks at the same sad level in the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s list of entrepreneur-friendly policy environments. These ruinous rankings are the worst in the southeast and with these ugly tax increases, businesses wont be flocking to our neighborhoods anytime soon.
The solution is simple. We must reduce all our state taxes as quickly and reasonably each year until our state is known as the business friendly state. Tax reduction will require courage and fortitude in the face of all the short sighted special interest groups clamoring for money from state funds. If we make these reductions, our economy will bloom and high unemployment will disappear. We can do this if we have the heart.