TABOR–Bad for Education, Bad for the Economy

August 2015

Post Author

By Rob Thompson

The North Carolina State Senate recently approved canned tax and budget legislation (commonly known as TABOR) that has been a disaster for children and the economy in the one state where it’s been approved. As a result, TABOR has been soundly rejected by the 30 other states that have considered it since.

It’s not hard to see why. TABOR is a failed experiment in ideological lawmaking that would choke off economic growth in North Carolina. From early childhood through technical school and college, children’s education is the most important engine and predictor of economic prosperity, and TABOR’s one-size-fits-all provisions would throttle the dynamic educational systems North Carolina has built, just as it’s done in Colorado. Here’s an excerpt from a 2012 news story in which CFO Glen Gustafason was interviewed about the impact of TABOR on his Colorado Springs school district:

“Over the past six years, his district has lost $35 million because of TABOR. In response to the spending restrictions, he said, the district has slashed teacher salaries, closed nine schools, increased class sizes twice, eliminated new programs, haven’t updated technology or books, dropped maintenance hugely, and even lowered school temperatures in the winter.”

TABOR has decimated education, critics say. Colorado Springs Gazette, 10/29/2012

And it’s not just education, basic health care services for Colorado children have also suffered:

“Between April 2001 and October 2002, for example, the state had to suspend free vaccinations to protect children against diphtheria and other diseases. By 2003, Colorado was dead last in the nation on children who receive full vaccinations. In 2002, the state shut down immunization clinics…”

TABOR has decimated education, critics say. Colorado Springs Gazette, 10/29/2012

When the state has so little funding that it can’t provide one of the most basic and inexpensive health protections for its children, something is wrong.

So what does TABOR do?

TABOR would amend the constitution to impose an arbitrary spending cap that will make it impossible to maintain the quality of our education and health care systems and our basic infrastructure. TABOR limits any annual increases in state spending to general inflation plus population growth. Here’s why that formula doesn’t work:

  1. The cost of our most important long-term state investments–education, infrastructure maintenance, and especially health care–is increasing at a rate faster than overall inflation.
  2. Changes in demographics demand flexibility. For instance, as baby boomers reach retirement age we are seeing a dramatic increase in the proportion of elderly North Carolinians who need more expensive state services.
  3. Our state spending is still not at the level it was pre-recession. By locking in post-recession spending levels, we are losing an opportunity to restore funding for pre-kindergarten, community colleges, and economic development that was cut during the recession.

This bill is shopworn from being circulated for years with no serious buyers. Once policymakers and elected officials get a good look at it, they see that it denies them the flexibility to take advantage of big opportunities, to address large demographic forces affecting their individual states, and it hamstrings their chances to compete against other states. Here’s what Chris Watney, President and CEO of the Colorado Children’s Campaign, had to say:

“In Colorado we have more than two decades of living with these artificial and unnecessary restrictions on the state budget,” said Watney. “The most serious and unintended effect of these fiscal tourniquets is the inability of legislators to respond to the needs of citizens during economic downturns. On top of that, the tourniquet is squeezed tighter when the economy rebounds as we are unable to invest in the health and education of our children and families to maintain prosperity. Legislators of all political backgrounds in Colorado have learned this the hard way and oppose these artificial limits.”

TABOR was no good for Colorado and it’s no good for NC.

Please take a moment and email your representative and senator and ask them to support prosperity and oppose TABOR.