On Wednesday the North Carolina Senate passed legislation to place a statewide referendum that would create a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.”
Sen. Shirley Randleman is touting the bill as an important step in putting North Carolina residents in the driver’s seat of running the state.
According to members of Randleman’s staff the proposed bill of rights includes a constitutional amendment to reduce the maximum state income tax rate from 10 percent to 5 percent. Also included is an amendment to limit the size of government in the state and an amendment that would better protect the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.”
Randleman said that the rainy day fund portion of the legislation is particularly important. According to her the amendment concerning that fund would create a required two-thirds vote by the General Assembly in order to appropriate funds from the rainy day fund.
Additionally, Randleman said that the constitutional amendment would require state lawmakers to place 2 percent of each fiscal year’s state operating budget into the fund. Randleman said that when Republican lawmakers took over the General Assembly in 2011 the fund had been badly depleted, with a balance of about $150 million remaining in the fund.
“We wouldn’t even have enough money to respond to a catastrophic event such as a hurricane or other natural disaster,” said Randleman. “It’s important to start building that fund back up.”
With annual state budgets running between $21 billion and $22 billion, according to Randleman, anywhere from $420 million to $440 million would be deposited in the rainy day fund each year. Deposits into the fund will cap once the fund reaches 12 1/2 percent of the state’s annual general fund budget.
Randleman said that all three proposed constitutional amendments are aimed at putting power back in the hands of the residents of the state.
“We want to give the taxpayers who are footing the bills the opportunity to decide how there money is handled,” said Randleman. “They should have a voice and should get the opportunity to vote on the matter.”
Having passed the Senate, the bill now moves on to the House of Representatives where it has yet to be assigned to a committee. If the lower house adopts the legislation by a three-fifths or greater majority then the proposed constitutional amendments will be placed on the ballot in the 2016 general election.
While North Carolina State Treasurer Janet Cowell has reportedly voiced concerns about the proposed amendments hurting the state’s AAA bond rating, Randleman’s staff has stated that the measures would simply bring the North Carolina in-line with the majority of other states with AAA bond ratings.
Andy Winemiller is a staff writer at the Mount Airy News. Andy can be reached at (336) 415-5698 or [email protected]