Long before the American Founders, the Christian theologian Thomas Aquinas noted: “No government has a right to levy taxes beyond the limit determined by the people.”
On November 6, North Carolinians have an opportunity to lower that limit the state can potentially take by 3 percent. If passed, the maximum cap will fall from 10 percent to seven. And while the amendment doesn’t lower taxes for anyone right now, it signals to the state that our taxes have been too high in the past. It reminds lawmakers that the power of the people to determine their taxes rests more with them than with Jones Street.
North Carolina has thankfully experienced budget surpluses of late. That’s a credit to some of the decision making in the General Assembly but it’s also a reminder that we are being overcharged on our tax bill.
That is why I find much of the criticism to this amendment, usually centered around more money for education or expanding an entitlement like Medicaid, ringing hollow. The decision is up to the people and I trust my fellow citizens more on that decision than politicians or special interest groups. We need to move away from the broken belief, that stubbornly seems to survive, that giving more money to politicians to spend will inherently solve problems beyond the reach of government.
In fact, I’m proud that we live in a country that has a long history of tax revolts. We fought a revolution not merely because we were taxed without representation, but the colonists felt that they were overtaxed too. Patrick Henry simply said of the British, “They have no right to put their hands in my pocket.” The percentage and amount of those taxes was a mere pittance of the taxes Americans now pay.
One of the most notable tax revolts in my mind at the state level was Proposition 13 in California. The measure drastically reduced property taxes in that state and required a two-thirds vote in the legislature for any future efforts to raise state revenues. By passing it in 1978, voters helped propel a popular conservative revolt across the country. It was rightly seen as a transformative tax revolution at the state level.
Our former president Calvin Coolidge once declared that “Until we re-establish a condition under which the earnings of the people can be kept by the people, we are bound to suffer a very distinct curtailment of our liberty.” While politicians and bureaucrats will continue to clamor for more money, it is essential that North Carolinians continually recognize the fundamental truth that money is only secured by consent, and the people are the best guardians of the public purse.
So when lawmakers or special interest groups attack this amendment because it threatens their future plans for your money, you can be at ease, and remind them it’s the people’s decision.