Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Equity of Roadbuilding

I don’t guess anyone driving down the road is happy with the litter, and overgrown weeds, along our highways. COVID certainly reduced congestion – but traffic jams will return, and potholes are there waiting.

Poor judgements by the Department of Transportation led to reckless spending which landed the department, and our highways, in a ditch. Workers were laid off, litter pickup services stopped, roads we needed to build were put on hold. Staring at the mess DOT had created the General Assembly stepped in, adding legislative appointees, like me, to the Transportation Board to try to improve oversight. But now, an even bigger crisis is looming.

Two-thirds of the money the state spends to build and maintain highways comes from one source – the gas tax. It works like this: Every time you fill up your car at the service station you pay a gas tax – which means what you pay is based on the amount of miles you drive. In effect, what you pay depends on how much you use and wear down roads. It’s a user fee.

But the days when almost everyone drove a gas-powered car are past. Today many people drive electric cars and while they use and wear down roads – just like people who drive gas cars – they pay no tax to build or repair highways.

Our biggest automakers are working to accelerate the shift to electric cars, and liberals, from President Biden on down, agree – which is fine. But, at the same time, how will we pay to build and maintain our highways? After all, whether you drive an electric car, or a gas-powered car potholes and traffic jams are a problem. It’s also a looming economic threat, and our biggest cities – the pillars of our economy – will be hit the hardest.

There’s a way to fix the problem but, as often happens, politics is standing in the way. To keep highway funding adequate every driver, whether he drives a gas car or electric car, needs to pay a fair share to help build and maintain roads. Governor Cooper and the Transportation Department know that.  But to suggest electric car drivers pay a ‘user fee’ – the same way gas car drivers do – draws the wrath of the left. So many politicians remain silent. But how long can we go on without building roads and fixing potholes?

Class War

Crises like coronavirus and unprecedented numbers of private sector workers out of work fuel fears and fears fuel anger so it’s natural we’re seeing protests that mirror those emotions.

Now, in any crowd of emotional protestors it’s simple to video clips of bad behavior – then, if you flash a few trigger words,  like ‘Nazis,’ with those videos of angry protestors, you have the Washington Democrats’ recipe for firing up ‘their base,’ getting hits on donate buttons, and reelecting Governor Cooper.

The Democratic Governors Association did just that in its new ad telling viewers that unemployed workers protesting against Governor Cooper’s shutdown orders are dangerous for North Carolina.

Let’s put politics aside for a moment and look at a couple hard facts: over a million North Carolina workers have lost their jobs. And, a month later, many of them never received their first unemployment check. Why? Mismanagement of Governor Cooper’s Division of Employment Security. And if an unemployed worker tries to call the Cooper Administration to find out what he must do to get his check, he may spend ten hours in phone-hold purgatory.

People don’t always express their fear, hurt, and anger well. It’s natural. If Governor Cooper did an experiment and suddenly stopped checks to government employees, I suspect we would see outbursts of anger dwarfing these protests.

Here’s the bigger question: What should the Governor be doing? Should he be exploiting the unemployment crisis with cheap political videos? Or should he be straightening out the mess at DES – and getting those unemployment checks out the door to people who need them?

Governor Cooper’s allies in Washington have given us their answer. But it won’t help a single worker.

Senator Andy Wells to Run for Lieutenant Governor

Statement by Senator Andy Wells:

“Earlier this year, in a single month, 130,000 illegal immigrants poured across our border. But, here in North Carolina, Democratic sheriffs in our biggest counties refused to cooperate with federal law enforcement to deport illegals who were arrested for crimes. It’s crazy.

“Republicans in the General Assembly passed a bill to stop Sanctuary Sheriffs. But Governor Cooper vetoed the bill.

“Governor Cooper also vetoed the budget Republicans passed – because he wanted to spend more. A lot more.

“But, this time, there is good news: With no budget the State continues to spend the same amount it did last year. Spending can’t go up. So Governor Cooper can’t increase spending.

“I am running for Lt. Governor to stand up for conservative principles – for less government, less spending and for stopping Sanctuary Sheriffs – just as I have in the Senate.”

Unintended Consequences

It wasn’t exactly what the Governor had in mind, but when he vetoed the state budget (because it didn’t spend enough) he actually cut spending. How’s that?

The Republican budget the General Assembly passed raised spending 3.4% – or $800 million.

Governor Cooper didn’t think that was enough spending – he wanted more government. So, he vetoed the Republican Budget.

What happened next? So far, the House hasn’t been able to override the Governor’s veto, and Republicans won’t pass the Governor’s budget. So, there is no budget.

What does that mean? When there’s no budget by law the state continues to spend the same amount it did last year – which means state spending is now lower than the budget Republicans passed and a lot lower than the Governor’s budget.

And if, like me, you think big government isn’t the answer to every problem that’s not an alarming outcome.

Governor Cooper’s veto had unintended consequences. He wanted more spending but instead he’s given us less spending – saving taxpayers $2.5 billion. Here’s my suggestion: The Legislature should bang down the gavel, adjourn, and go home and leave it at that – which would save taxpayers $2.5 billion.

Over Regulated

There is plenty of talk going around these days about political polarization, but occasionally the liberals and conservatives do come together and agree.

It was only a small NC legislative subcommittee hearing, but there they were, representatives from the conservative John Locke Foundation and the liberal N.C. Justice Center, agreeing there was too much regulation.

In this case, the regulations they were agreeing on involved 55 state commissions and state agencies that grant licenses to some 700,000 NC workers – such as doctors, attorneys or pastoral counselors.

Now, practically speaking, giving a Commission the power to determine who can be, say, an undertaker, gives that Commission a lot of control over the free market. They can literally determine how many funeral homes there are in a county.

NC, and other states, have long required licenses for professions like doctors and attorneys. And no one is arguing doctors shouldn’t be licensed.

But around 1973, the number of licensed occupations in NC started increasing like mushrooms after a summer rain.

Here’s where the two ends of the political spectrum agreed:

  1. Licensing creates a barrier to entry for workers in general, and particularly the poor, as they try to climb the economic ladder.
  2. Licensing raises the costs of services, which takes money out of everyone’s pockets, but hits the poor hardest.
  3. And, as a group, licensed professions experience slower growth rates than their unlicensed peers.

In other words, unnecessary licensing hurts workers, consumers and our economy.

Granted there are some obvious winners. If you already hold a license to be an undertaker, you find yourself in a protected environment that limits bothersome competition. That’s why people with licensees are quick to argue that uneducated consumers need the protection licensing offers. Without that extra bureaucratic protection, they say, people will be exposed to unnecessary risk from bad actors.

That may have been true 50 years ago. But in the age of smart phones and Yelp, there may be a better way to protect consumers than more bureaucracy.

Four Actual NC Congressional District 12 Maps

Click here for a larger view.


Freedom Fighters

It’s an old story that repeats itself throughout history – a flamboyant leader exhorts a suffering people to join his crusade to overthrow a ruthless dictator and win their freedom. But then, as soon as the revolution is over, it turns out the new leader is not what he seemed. He wanted power for himself, not freedom for the people.

For years conservatives, standing for two fundamental principles, have battled tax incentives that favor one business over others. We have argued those incentives are examples of government interfering with the free market and ‘picking winners and losers.’

Along the way, additional political leaders (and their allied political groups) joined in, using almost precisely the same arguments while specifically criticizing the state incentives for solar energy.

For a while, it sounded like we were all allies in the conservative cause.

But then, everything changed. After the solar incentives were eliminated, the second group dropped the cloak of standing up for free markets and, contrary to conservative principles, set out to use government to tilt the market to suit its purposes.

How? By proposing to pass a law that said no farmer could rent his land to a solar farm without the government’s permission. In other words, they want to use government to accomplish their goal of stopping solar energy.

That is not my idea of freedom. Or of protecting the free market. The government has no business getting into the business of telling a farmer how he can or cannot use his land.

Golden Leaf Grants

Click each for a closer look.

Grants by County as of May 2015

Grants by County




Receiving the League’s Community Champion Award for 2014

League Linc article2

Senator McLaurin, Representative Wells and Legislative Assistant Mary Marchman Receive League Awards

NCLM Greensboro, NC 2014

Senator Gene McLaurin of Rockingham and Representative Andy Wells of Hickory were recognized earlier this week as recipients of the League’s Community Champion Award for 2014. The League presents the award to legislators who make strong efforts to work with municipal officials and ensure that municipal interests are represented during the legislative process. The awards were presented during CityVision 2014, the League’s annual conference held in Greensboro.

The League also presented its inaugural General Assembly Ambassador award to Legislative Assistant Mary Marchman. The award recognizes a legislative staff member for professionalism and selflessness while carrying out his or her duties at the Legislature. Ms. Marchman has been a legislative assistant for the last 11 years, working both the House and Senate. She currently serves as legislative assistant to Senator Kathy Harrington of Gastonia.

“Each of these award recipients is a true champion and true professional. Their service at the Legislature has been invaluable to the state, its cities and towns, and the residents of North Carolina,” said League Executive Director Paul Meyer. League President Ronnie Wall presented the awards to Senator McLaurin, Representative Wells and Ms. Marchman.

In remarks to those attending Monday night’s dinner at the Koury Convention Center, Senator McLaurin noted the relative inexperience of the current legislature and how many legislators do not come to the job with a municipal perspective. He challenged city and town officials to take that perspective to their legislators. Representative Wells discussed his upbringing as the son of a city manager, and noted how issues that are allowed to fester locally can end up before legislators. Ms. Marchman gave a witty speech on how to tactfully approach and discuss issues with lawmakers. The League extends it congratulations and thanks to Senator McLaurin, Representative Wells and Ms. Marchman, and looks forward to working with each in the years to come.

 To view the full LINC’ed in Update,  visit it here.

IMG_3796   NCLM Greensboro, NC 2014   NCLM Greensboro, NC 2014   IMG_3794

Earned Income Tax Credit

The howls started immediately when, last year, to reform the tax code and create jobs the General Assembly dropped the state’s version of the so-called earned income tax credit.


It became, pretty quickly, a media circus.


Rev. William Barber waded in, suggesting he – by virtuously standing up for the E.I.T.C. – was the epitome of rectitude while those who didn’t agree with him had no empathy for the poor.


It was politics run amuck.


So what exactly is the E.I.T.C.?


Well, first it’s not a tax credit at all. Instead, it works like this: Let’s say, hypothetically, a low income person pays $500 in Social Security and other taxes. At the end of the year, they can file for an E.I.T.C. tax credit and receive a ‘refund’ of, say, $2,000. In effect, they receive a ‘refund’ $1,500 greater than the taxes they paid.


And that’s what the General Assembly ended last year: North Carolina’s local version of Washington’s E.I.T.C.


Now, last week, one of the publications that showcased Rev. Barber’s attacks on conservatives – like me – reported the federal E.I.T.C. is a poster program not just for welfare boondoggles but outright fraud. According to the Government Accountability Office, 24% of all E.I.T.C. refunds ($14.5 billion) were ‘overpayments’ that should never have been made.


How, you might ask, could that happen? The Commissioner of the IRS explained the “improper payments” were caused by parents lying about their number of children or their incomes – and the IRS mailing the checks before bothering to check the claims.


To put that into perspective, $14.5 billion would pay for North Carolina’s entire General Fund budget for eight months.


It never made sense to disguise a welfare payment as a tax credit. It was pure political hoo-doo. North Carolina took a step in the right direction when it ended the E.I.T.C. And Washington could save $14.5 bi8llion in waste by doing the same thing.