Civitas Review

NC Leg and Guv Agree: No Gas Tax Relief for NC Motorists This Summer



The state House and Senate gave tentative approval on Monday to a bill that would drop the state's gas tax by 1.5 cents per gallon, with leaders in both chambers  saying they needed to ensure the short-term stability of North Carolina's primary source of state funds for road construction.

Both chambers need to take a final vote on Tuesday before the measure heads to Gov. Pat McCrory, who has said he will sign the bill.
North Carolina's current gas tax is 37.5 cents per gallon, meaning Senate Bill 20 will save drivers about 23 cents on a 15-gallon fill up starting Wednesday and running through the remainder of the calendar year. The current gas tax rate is derived from a formula based largely on the wholesale price of gasoline. When wholesale prices go up, the tax has gone up. When they drop, the price goes down.

North Carolina and the rest of the nation have seen months of relatively low gas prices, which meant that, if lawmakers had done nothing, the gas tax would have dropped to 30 cents per gallon this summer. While drivers may have been happy to see that fall off at the pump, lawmakers said they would have been less than pleased with the fall off in road repairs and expansions.


Under Senate Bill 20, the gas tax would fall to 35 cents per gallon on Jan. 1, 2016, and then to 34 cents per gallon on July 1, 2016. By the end of 2016, lawmakers say, they hope to reach a grand bargain on replacing the gas tax as the primary source of revenue for funding road construction. If they don't reach an agreement, a fail-safe in the bill would begin driving up the gas tax rate again, basing the increases on a formula involving population growth and the consumer price index.

The bottom line: NC motorists will be denied a gas tax cut come July 1 – and there will be a gas tax floor established with built-in automatic annual increases going forward unless there is a "grand bargain" reached to replace the gas tax with another form of revenue to fund transportation.

Kibbe: How Power Is Shifting to Voters


The Internet and the growth of grassroots groups is shifting power from backrooms in Washington to the American people, FreedomWorks President and CEO Matt Kibbe said Saturday morning at Civitas' Conservative Leadership Conference CLC.

Consider ride-sharing services such as Uber, through which he got a ride from the airport to CLC at the Embassy Suites in Cary.

"This is the democratization of capitalism,” he said.

But the same model provides for the democratization of political power, he said. Such disruptive change is shaking up the “duopoly” of Republican/Democratic power, especially in Washington.

The Internet gives conservatives a greater social intelligence, he said. Whether it’s getting a ride from the airport or winning votes, “the customer has better information and is better able to organize.”

A prime example is the 2010 popular uproar over the Affordable Care Act. Members of Congress came home to town halls only to find that their constituents had read more of the bill than they had, and the voters were furious. The same holds true for political debate on all topics now.

As Barack Obama disrupted the  Democratic Party, conservatives may transform the GOP.  "The Republican Party has nominated Bob Dole again and again and again. It's like 'Groundhog Day,' he said. "It's not going to happen again."

“We don’t have to accept what the Republican establishment thinks is an appropriate candidate for office,” he said.

CLC Theme: Reaching the People


Early speakers at the Conservative Leadership Conference called on conservatives to take a fresh look at how to advance their ideas.

One fresh look might be on ways to connect with voters who are struggling and might hear the conservative message, if they believed we were on their side.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum pointed out that in 2012 nearly one quarter of voters felt the top issue was: Does the candidate care about people like me?

The elites are complacent about that, "But if you're struggling, you care," he said.

On these issues, he said, conservatives and Republicans to often fail to listen to, and address, those concerns. "When it comes to public policy we are absolutely tone deaf."

Conservatives look back to Reagan-era solutions, but we are as far from Reagan's era as he was from Thomas Dewey, the unsuccessful candidate of 1948. Take the slogan "a rising tide raises all boats." "A rising tide does lift all boats," he said, "unless your boat has a hole in it."

Many working people share the values of conservatives, he went on to say. "They want to vote for us but they don't think we give a darn about them, because we never talk about them."

Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint also noted that Americans will often back conservative stands, if the people know and understand what's going on in Washington.  “We are a growing movement and we do have a majority in America — if we learn how to talk to people.”

And things are changing. The Internet and the growth of grassroots organizations has enabled conservatives to bring more pressure on Washington, as in the defeat of the 2007 immigration reform measure and in the ban of earmarks.

That's why it's up to citizens to be involved. “The power to change this country and the responsibility to save this county is in the hands of people," he said. “It’s your country, it’s your job.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest exclaimed, "Conservatism is really cool!" and he went on to assure the gathering that "people are eager for truth. eager for bold messages."

New Bill to Examine Burdensome Occupational Licensing Boards


North Carolina has so many occupational licensing boards and commissions, they can't even count them accurately. This fact was highlighted in a Civitas "Waste of the Week" feature last May:

The Attorney General’s office lists 55 Boards, while a legislative oversight committee lists 57. According to the audit, “When asked how state-level entities compile their Board listings, one entity responded that it initially received its listing from another state agency but it now receives updates by ‘word of mouth’ from Board administrators and chairmen.”

Indeed, a Civitas report in 2012 found more than 700 professions require professional licensing in NC, many of them are completely superfluous and can't be remotely defended on the (faulty) grounds of "public safety."

Fortunately, a bill was recently introduced to address this issue. Senate bill 361, sponsored by Fletcher Hartsell (R-Union) would form a commission to study the "feasibility of establishing a single State agency to oversee the administration of all or some of the occupational licensing boards" and "eliminating some occupational licensing boards."

This is a step in the right direction, one can only hope that the elimination of some licensing boards means eliminating the licensing requirements of those professions. Occupational licensing largely serves to create barriers to entry for new entrants to select professions, serving to restrict the supply and putting upward pressure prices of the services they provide. Such licensing disproportionately affects low-income people trying to enter a chosen profession, but lack the resources to attain the license.  

Progress NC Action tries to turn table on legislators; but fails.


progress NC action

Progress NC Action  is a left-wing political action and advocacy organization.  When lawmakers required DPI to assign a letter grade to every public school, like many other organizations, it didn't like it.

According to Gerrick Brenner, Executive Director of Progress NC, the results “said a lot more about the poverty rates of each school than they did about instructional quality.”

So Progress NC Action decided to change things up and grade every politician in the state based what they believe public schools need most: funding.  They made the results available at a web site,

The results make for a curious reading, especially when you realize that state appropriations for K-12 public schools have actually increased each of the past four years.

It’s also the first time I’ve actually seen an organization try to rank legislators by combining bills from previous sessions.  Doing so significantly reduces the ability to reasonably compare legislators since so few have been present to record all the votes under consideration. grades lawmakers based on how they voted on eight bills. Budget bills for years 2011,2012, 2013, and 2014, are included along with bills to cut pre-K funding, implement tax reform  — which Brenner re-defines as a $1 billion tax cut to public education — and another bill that allows guns in schools. What do guns in schools have to do with funding? Maybe about as much as one dealing with pre-K funding.   That's question you‘d have to ask Progress NC Action.

While you’re at it you might also want to ask why – if Progress NC Action is so concerned about funding cuts  — they failed to include education budget cuts made in 2010  ($222 million) and 2009  ($1.1 billion).  No mention was made of those reductions, even though the reductions were some of the largest made in the last decade.

It is interesting that the “analysis” somehow only included the time frame when Republicans wrote the budget.  We simply ask: why? Significant reductions were made to the education budget in 2009 and 2010 when Democrats controlled the Legislature and the Governor’s Office.

Is Progress NC Action cherry-picking the data?   You decide.  I think the budget data that's included — as well as data that is not — tells you all you need to know.

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