Policies the NC General Assembly should address this session
Today marks the opening day for the 2015 “long session” for the North Carolina General Assembly. Legislators will confront many pressing issues, foremost among them will be crafting the FY 2015-17 biennial budget.
Following is a list of priorities the Civitas Institute believes should receive attention in 2015:
Medicaid: Real Reform and Fight Expansion
North Carolina’s Medicaid program is in need of reform. Skyrocketing costs and massive overruns consume a growing share of the state budget. Both Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders have developed plans to reform the state’s Medicaid program. McCrory and other legislators, primarily in the House, have favored reform that relies on Accountable Care Organizations, a proposition with several flaws that would at best generate very modest savings.
Civitas would instead like to see more sweeping, patient-centered reform similar to the plan that is seeing success in Florida.
Moreover, North Carolina should continue to resist expanding the Medicaid program as prescribed in Obamacare. The program is already overcrowded, causing enrollees to have difficulty accessing care. Expanding the program to hundreds of thousands more enrollees will serve to significantly exacerbate the problem.
Regardless of any reforms to Medicaid, NC should continue to refuse its expansion.
Reduce State Budget by $1
Our challenge to state budget writers is to reduce the state’s General Fund by $1. That’s right, not $1 billion or even $1 million, but just one buck: Spend $1 less next year than is spent this year.
After the recent dip in spending due to the recession, the state budget has again continued its long-term trend of unsustainable growth. Per capita state spending in the General Fund – even after adjusting for inflation – has grown by 62 percent in the last 30 years. That means that the state budget spends nearly two-thirds more money, in real terms, per person than it did in 1985.
Recent efforts to legislatively curb spending growth rates through TABOR legislation have stalled. It’s time for a new approach, a challenge to legislators who were elected promising fiscal restraint. If the state can hold the line on spending during a year that’s projected to see economic growth, it will be far more poised to weather the next fiscal storm.
Expand School Choice
School choice remains an effective tool for expanding educational opportunity and for propelling education reform.
Last year, the Legislature approved the Opportunity Scholarship Program. The program provides eligible students with scholarships of up to $4,200 to attend the school of their choice. The program funded up to 1,200 scholarships, yet more than 4,000 families applied.
The overwhelming demand offers a compelling reason to support a significant expansion in the Opportunity Scholarship Grant program.
Civitas also urges North Carolina legislators to develop Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) similar in principle to those in Arizona and Florida.
ESAs provide eligible families with state funds, allowing parents to spend a percentage of the state per-pupil funding on their child’s educational expenses. Because ESAs save the state money and offer parents the best means to take control of their child’s education, Civitas favors the establishment of an ESA program or ESA pilot.
Fight Against EPA Rules
The Obama administration, through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has developed an unprecedented level of restrictions on electricity power plants, specifically targeting coal plants. Many analysts believe the restrictions are unrealistic and will have major negative impacts, including higher energy prices and damage to the economy. A recent study concluded that such restrictions would cost North Carolina more than 30,000 jobs.
Specific rules were originally scheduled to be in place by summer 2015, with enforcement beginning one year later, but the EPA recently announced the process will be delayed.
Twelve states, including neighboring South Carolina, have joined a lawsuit suing the EPA to fight the draconian regulations. North Carolina should join the legal battle and also undertake any other legal or legislative efforts to refuse to comply with the EPA’s drastic overreach.
Proof of Citizenship to Register to Vote
Civitas believes that evidence of illegal voters on North Carolina’s official voter rolls coming to light days before the 2014 General Election should compel the legislature to enact legislation that requires people registering to vote to provide satisfactory evidence of U.S. citizenship.
Barely two weeks before Election Day 2014, the State Board of Elections (SBOE) acknowledged the discovery of 145 voters on the official voter list who appeared to be noncitizens and belonged to a federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Furthermore, the SBOE announced it had discovered more than 10,000 additional registered voters whose citizenship status was questionable, and, after analysis, 15 percent were believed to be noncitizens. In light of this evidence and of President Obama’s recent executive action that will expand the DACA program, it is vital that the legislature continue its work to secure North Carolina’s elections and require voters to prove citizenship when they register.
The previous five issues, however, are not the only ones the Civitas Institute would like to see implemented this year. Other important legislation we’d like to see addressed in 2015 include: the elimination of dues checkoff for all state employee associations, the cessation of Common Core, an evaluation of the state’s reliance on federal funds and the strings attached to federal money, and the elimination of corporate welfare and other “economic incentives.”