In the constant, on-going debate between the political left and right about the proper role of government, this question is typically answered with a discussion that focuses on issues such as taxes, government spending, or healthcare. There are two items, however, that illustrate the size and scope of government control that often go unnoticed.
The first overlooked measure is the North Carolina State Government Fee Report. This document, produced by the Office of State Budget and Management, lists over 2,700 fees that are assessed each year by the State of North Carolina. Essentially, lawmakers and bureaucrats have come up with nearly 3,000 ways—in addition to taxes—to extract money from its citizens. And this number does not include fees assessed by the community college system or the University of North Carolina system. Excluding those fees, the state collected nearly $2 billion in fees during the 2007-08 fiscal year. By comparison, the state collected $1.2 billion in total corporate taxes that year. The $2 billion in fees was an increase of almost $63 million from the previous year, and an increase of more than $700 million from 2002-03.
North Carolina charges a fee for a wide range of actions. Many are aware of and pay these fees on a regular basis, such as drivers’ license fees, parking tickets, and marriage license fees, but there are thousands of other lesser-known fees that the state imposes. Some of these other fees include registration fees charged to pet food and fertilizer manufacturers, elevator inspection fees, concealed weapon license fees, and grain dealers’ license fees. Everything from liquor by the drink to hunting and fishing to hospitals to go-karts has a fee assigned to it by the State.
North Carolina is especially involved in levying fees upon the operation of businesses. For example, in order to start and manage a limited liability company, or LLC, in North Carolina, a number of fees must be paid. LLCs must pay fees for application for registration as an LLC, applications for both a registered name and a reserved name, articles of organization, and designation of a registered agent or office, just to name a few. Many other fees are charged to businesses for their opening and operation.
For a complete database of North Carolina’s fees, click here.
Another often-overlooked barometer of state government’s far-reaching involvement in its citizens’ daily lives is the number of boards, commissions and legislative commissions and study committees. The State has over 500 such groups with over 3,000 members according to Gov. Bev Perdue’s office. When releasing her budget plan for 2010-11, Perdue proposed eliminating 100 of these groups, but her office has not yet specified which will be cut.
Similar to the state’s fee schedule, the seemingly endless list of boards and committees ensures there is virtually no remote sliver of society that escapes government’s microscope. From birth to death, the government of North Carolina is involved in its citizens’ lives.
For example, commissions that examine the lives of young North Carolinians include the Commission on Children with Special Health Care Needs, the Commission on Early Childhood Vision Care, both the North Carolina Child Fatality Prevention Team and the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force, and the North Carolina Child Care Commission.
When children become old enough to go to school, the State Board of Education, the North Carolina Textbook Commission, the Education Commission of the States, the North Carolina School Technology Commission, the Legislative committees on education and higher education, and the Education First Task Force are the state boards and commissions most involved in their lives.
When schoolchildren become old enough to go to community college or one of the UNC system schools, their school will have a board of trustees. Additionally, the House Education Subcommittee on Universities or the House Education Subcommittee on Community Colleges oversees college students’ educations. There is a good chance that after students graduate from a university or community college, they will deal with one of the state’s more than 45 licensing boards before they can legally operate their business or practice their trade.
After people are established in their work, the Joint Select Committee on Work and Family Balance, the Economic Investment Committee, the Industrial Commission, or one of the four regional economic development commissions may help to address their needs. If they own a small business, there are four different groups established to control their affairs: the North Carolina Small Business Contractor Authority, the North Carolina Small Business Environmental Advisory Panel, the House Commerce, Small Business, and Entrepreneurship Committee, and the House Select Committee on Small Business.
The North Carolina Medical Care Commission oversees the care that North Carolinians receive throughout their lives. Many other commissions and groups also study the healthcare that people in North Carolina receive, including the Governor’s Task Force for Healthy Carolinians, the North Carolina State Coordinating Council, and the Senate and House standing committees on health and healthcare. Additionally, there are numerous committees and commissions that address specific healthcare issues from stroke and heart attack to cancer to traumatic brain injury.
As North Carolinians get older, the House Standing Committee on Aging, the Legislative Study Commission on Aging, and the Governor’s Advisory Council on Aging pertain to them. Finally, after North Carolinians die, the Board of Funeral Service and the North Carolina Cemetery Commission oversee the ways by which they are laid to rest.
For a complete list of these boards, commissions, committees, and task forces, click here.
The sheer number of these boards, commissions, and fees demonstrates the reach of state government in North Carolina. There are scarcely any activities remaining that are not taxed, studied, assessed a fee or otherwise regulated by state government. In light of all of these fees, commissions, boards, and committees, it is hard to imagine anyone thinking that the solution to any of the challenges facing the state is even more government involvement.