How to stop your local government from running up debt
We have watched as politicians at all levels have run up massive debts that our children and grandchildren will have to pay. At the federal level, just since January 20, 2009, politicians have added over $2.1 trillion to our national debt to bring it to almost $13 trillion. In North Carolina, state debt has grown by $3.1 billion with no vote of the people since 2000 and the cumulative totals of local debt burdens now exceeds $43 billion. As politicians have been raising taxes and spending every cent they have also been busy maxing out the credit cards and sending us the bill!
Our ability as citizens to impact what happens in Washington, DC is limited to our votes for three federal representatives (1 congress, 2 Senate) and the president. At the state level we only get to vote for two state legislators and the governor. At the local level it varies by city and county as to how many people we get to vote for.
But you don’t have to wait any longer to take the credit card away from your local city council. You can start tomorrow to stop the spending madness going on almost everywhere!
The North Carolina constitution has a clause in it that “requires” a vote of the people in order for government to issue debt but it has been so riddled with loopholes that it is practically worthless. Article 5, Section 4 of the NC constitution deals with local debt, part of which says:
“The General Assembly shall have no power to authorize any county, city or town, special district, or other unit of local government to contract debts secured by a pledge of its faith and credit unless approved by a majority of the qualified voters of the unit who vote thereon…”
But what looks like clear direction has been abused at the state and local level with debt instruments such as “Certificates of Participation” (COPs) and Tax Increment Financing (TIFs). TIFs were the debt instrument that Roanoke Rapids used to finance the ill-fated “Randy Parton Theatre” , which will end up costing the citizens of Roanoke Rapids millions of dollars and higher property taxes – all without asking their consent. While citizens will have a hard time making elected officials stop taxing and spending, they can act now to make them ask voters before they borrow any more money.
N.C. law allows citizens to amend city charters through an initiative process:
§ 160A-104. Initiative petitions for charter amendments
“The people may initiate a referendum on proposed charter amendments. An initiative petition shall bear the signatures and resident addresses of a number of qualified voters of the city equal to at least ten percent (10%) of the whole number of voters who are registered to vote in city elections according to the most recent figures certified by the State Board of Elections or 5,000, whichever is less. The petition shall set forth the proposed amendments by describing them briefly but completely…”
Every city, town and village in NC needs to have an amendment added to its charter to require that ALL NEW DEBT must be voter approved. Article 5, Section 4 of the NC constitution already gives exceptions for emergencies and other unforeseen problems. Possible language for such an amendment could be as follows:
The city of (INSERT NAME OF CITY OR TOWN) shall contract no debts of any kind unless approved by a majority of the qualified voters of (INSERT NAME OF CITY OR TOWN) who vote thereon, except as allowed by the exceptions spelled out in (a)-(f) of Article 5, Section 4, Chapter 2 of the North Carolina Constitution.
Our elected officials have been on a spending binge for too long – It is time to restore fiscal sanity to government – starting in your hometown!