Going back several years, Civitas has urged more transparency when it comes to local and state debt referendums. Specifically, we have advocated applying “truth in lending” type standards to bond referendums. When private citizens take out a mortgage, for instance, the government requires the lender to disclose information about the full amount of debt obligations to the borrower – namely including the amount of interest that will be tacked on to the principle owed.
Yesterday, House Bill 248, sponsored by Reps. Debra Conrad (R-Forsyth), Jim Fulghum (R-Wake), George Cleveland (R-Onslow), John Blust (R-Guilford), was introduced. The bill, entitled the Taxpayer Debt Information Act, would require language on local or state debt referendums disclosing and estimated total amount of payments required to pay off the debt being voted upon (principle plus interest). Before now, voters were merely presented with the amount of the principle itself, leading many to be deceived as to the actual burden the debt will place on taxpayers.
Shouldn’t government at least live up to the same disclosure standards they require of lenders in the private market?
Of course, this bill only has meaning if government actually submits new issues of debt to a vote of citizens, something the state hasn’t done since 2000.