If you rounded up all 55 of NC’s Occupational Licensing Agencies (OLA) and put them under one roof it wouldn’t be a massive new department of state government – but 485 employees is nothing to sneeze at either.
Altogether, those 55 boards handle $67 million dollars a year.
By way of comparison, with 2/3 of the OLA’s 485 employees, the General Assembly budgets and oversees $54 billion a year from state and federal taxpayers – 800 times as much money as the OLAs.
A better comparison may be the State Treasurer’s office which only has 334 employees, a third less than the OLAs, while managing $90 billion in retirement funds for teachers and state and local employees.
You can say I’m comparing apples and oranges – but look north to Virginia.
If Virginia managed their licensing agencies like NC, they would have to raise license fees by 40%. Instead, Virginia keeps their expenses down ($68 per licensee vs. NC’s $96) while handling just as many license related complaints and disciplining more licensees than NC.
The OLAs say these costs really don’t matter since their $67 million comes from fees paid by the people they license instead of taxes. And that’s true – OLAs do not receive tax dollars. But the money has to come from somewhere. And the answer is, ultimately, it comes out of the pockets of consumers and customers.
And, in the end, it doesn’t really matter whether the legislature is pulling dollars out of your pocket with taxes, or by granting an OLA the power to charge your barber for a license before he can give you a haircut. It’s still part of his cost of doing business. And it’s still dollars coming out of your pocket.
Naturally, OLAs keep telling legislators not to change a thing – that everything is fine.
But a little digging through financial statements shows OLAs have turned into a costly mess. Granted, this mess has been years in the making and isn’t the most urgent problem facing taxpayers – but for those of us who are fiscal conservatives, it’s getting harder and harder not to clean it up.