NC loses out on economic opportunities thanks to politicians in Raleigh

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In North Carolina, conservative politicians have shown themselves utterly devoid of business sense. Opportunities for economic growth and job creation in several sectors, especially solar and other forms of clean energy, have fallen by the wayside; employees (read teachers) have lost the help they need in order to concentrate on teaching; and tax hikes for the middle and working class families have slowed the spending our consumer-based economy requires. All in all, it seems that politicians need a crash course in Econ 101. 

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Gov. Pat McCrory crows about online driver’s license renewal, but are congratulations really in order for simply catching up with what 30 other states have already done? Or is this a small sign that the governor and GOP lawmakers are still capable of reclaiming the basic business sense that once was the hallmark of their party? Will we now see them correct some of their more notable business failures?

Renewable energy. Businesses embrace competition that opens doors to innovation and better products and services. But given the chance to increase power company competition while creating jobs in the energy source of the future and helping rural counties find a profitable new use for open land, our legislature said no.

Tax cuts and tax shifts. Business accounting depends on actually balancing revenues and expenses. Not so for our governor and legislature. Budgeting is a shell game to them. Cuts to state taxes and programs simply shift the costs to property taxes and sales taxes with 80 percent of us paying more.

Medicaid: Business people understand that when uninsured patients are treated at a hospital, those charity costs are passed along and paid by the rest of us through our own, higher insurance premiums.

Local choice on annexation and zoning: Every CEO knows about growing a company: Targeted, orderly and fiscally sound growth keeps costs low and profits high. Likewise, our cities achieve cost-efficient growth through business-like and fair rules for annexation and zoning. Now, the governor and lawmakers have reduced local choice, setting in motion higher costs of growth, property tax increases and decreased property values.

Teacher aides: No business assigns key workers to lower-level duties or denies them means to focus on what they are trained for. But our governor and lawmakers have cut teacher aides who multiply teacher productivity, implement learning plans and handle administrative, disciplinary and organizational duties, leaving less time for teachers to teach.

Water quality: Every business person keeps an eye on downstream costs. Too little spent now produces bigger costs later. The governor and legislature loosened stream buffer rules that kept sewage out of our water and our property safer from floods. Now we will see higher bills for clean water and higher premiums for flood insurance.

Home care for the elderly: Businesses find the right scale for operations. In-home services keep disabled seniors at home. Our legislature and governor prefer seeing them in costly nursing homes. They cut support for Meals on Wheels, transportation to the doctor and adult day care that can best use the help of family members and neighbors.

Business location incentives: Business people understand bribes and extortion. Roaring ’20s businesses foiled the mob’s demand for protection money by standing together. This lesson has been lost in GOP wrangling over business incentives. No one seems to have heard the term “intra-state compact,” a simple agreement between the states to end incentives so all states compete on the basis of quality, not on taxpayer subsidies.

Low and moderate income tax breaks and tax credits: Businesses like money in the pockets of people who will spend it. Normally, this would mean tax cuts that let everyone keep more of the first dollar they earn. Worry about the next million later. The governor and lawmakers have it the other way around with the smallest tax cut going to folks in the middle class and below. That leaves everyday folks scraping by and earning too little to ever see an honest likelihood of getting ahead and real financial security.

Businesses know that change is not a demolition derby. Successful businesses prosper by careful adjustments to unanticipated events and new opportunities. In contrast, the governor and lawmakers have impulsively steamrolled years of voter-approved progress. 

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