I recently submitted the following letter to the N&O in response to this column.
While discussing North Carolina’s tax reform efforts, Columnist Jack Betts describes our current tax structure as one which “no longer produces enough revenue to meet demands for basic services.” (Tax reform reaches the sticking point)
Disappointingly, Mr. Betts only looks at one side of the budgetary coin, leaving out the most important part of the equation: spending.
Readers may better appreciate the state’s current fiscal condition if they were informed that North Carolina state government collected $3.45 billion in surplus revenues between fiscal years 2004 to 2008. That is money collected in excess of what was deemed necessary to satisfy “demands for basic services” (and plenty of not-so-basic services as well).
Unfortunately, virtually all of that money was spent rather then set aside for the inevitable “rainy day.”
Examining long-term trends, per capita state spending doubled from 1979 to 2009, even after adjusting for inflation. Thus, in real terms, state government now spends twice as much per person as it did just thirty years ago.
Tax reform is indeed a laudable goal, but without responsible checks on spending even a modernized tax code won’t be able to keep up with state government’s out-of-control growth.