With The Bathroom Bill Gone, Here Are 5 Things Happening In North Carolina For The Media To Cover
Between the University of North Carolina Tar Heels beating Gonzaga to win the men’s college basketball national championship on Monday, and the North Carolina General Assembly last Thursday repealing House Bill 2, commonly referred to as the bathroom bill, there’s been a lot of news coming out of North Carolina this past week.
Following pressure from corporate CEOs, the NCAA, and even UNC basketball coach Roy Williams, Republicans who control the state legislature and Gov. Roy Cooper (D) reached an agreement to repeal HB 2. House Bill 142, which repeals HB 2, was approved by legislators and signed into law by Gov. Cooper last Thursday.
For more than a year, national media outlets have breathlessly covered the debate over North Carolina’s passage of HB 2, legislation that required people to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificate. In response, the New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg and other outlets regularly ran stories and columns depicting North Carolina as some backwater state full of troglodytes. The good news is now that the bathroom bill is dead and gone, reporters and columnists have more time to cover events and developments in North Carolina that are much more newsworthy and affect far more people than the now defunct bathroom bill.
Here are five stories in North Carolina the media might consider covering now that the focus on bathrooms is behind us:
1) Job growth in North Carolina has outpaced national and regional averages under Republican control of state government
While the media has spent a year focusing on the bathroom bill and the backlash to it from many in the business community, North Carolina has quietly continued to outperform the rest of the nation on key metrics of prosperity and economic health. Last year, while the press was consumed with coverage of HB 2, John Hood, chairman of the John Locke Foundation, was highlighting more noteworthy developments that ran counter to the media’s narrative about the state, such as how North Carolina’s net gain of over 250,000 jobs since June 2013 compares to regional and national trends:
“That’s an increase of 6.2 percent, a rate significantly higher than the national average of 5.1 percent. If North Carolina had simply matched the national average in job creation, there would be about 45,000 fewer jobs in our state right now. Doing the same math for a regional comparison yields different numbers depending on whether you use a simple average of the job creation rates of the 12 Southeastern states (which translates into 82,000 fewer jobs if North Carolina had only matched it) or a weighted average that gives a lot of statistical heft to fast-growing Florida (and translates into 38,000 fewer jobs).”
Much of the economic success North Carolina has had in recent years is owed in part to the pro-growth tax and regulatory reforms enacted since Republicans took control of state government, which brings us to the second newsworthy item the press should consider covering now that they can’t focus on bathrooms.
2) North Carolina lawmakers are using 2017 to build on their record of successful, pro-growth tax reform that has served as a model for the nation
It’s only Wednesday and there has already been a lot of good news this week for many North Carolinians to celebrate. The day after UNC won the national championship, the North Carolina Senate passed a bill dubbed the Billion Dollar Middle Class Tax Cut. This senate-approved bill provides further income tax relief to North Carolina taxpayers, taking the state’s flat income tax rate down from 5.499 to 5.35%. In addition to providing franchise tax relief for small businesses, the senate-passed plan also reduces the corporate tax from 3 to 2.75% in 2018, and cuts the rate again to 2.5% in 2019.
As bill sponsor Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Union) noted at a committee hearing last week, 99% of all individual income taxpayers in North Carolina would either receive a tax cut or pay no income tax if the bill becomes law. If North Carolina Republicans, who have veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature, enact this legislation, it will be the latest installment in a series of pro-growth, rate-reducing tax reform measures enacted in North Carolina over the past four years.
With the exception of Tennessee and Florida, which do not tax income, North Carolina now has the lowest personal income tax rate in the region, and the lowest corporate rate in the nation among states that levy a corporate income tax. Going into 2013, North Carolina had the 44th ranked business tax climate in the country on the non-partisan Tax Foundation’s business tax climate index. Thanks to the reforms enacted since 2013, North Carolina now has the nation’s 11th best business tax climate. The latest tax relief measure approved by the state Senate this week, if enacted, is likely to further improve the state’s ranking and solidify North Carolina as the nation’s leader in tax reform.
The national media, Democratic politicians and progressive pundits have desperately tried to publicize the fiscal problems Kansas has had since it enacted income tax relief under Gov. Sam Brownback, their thought being that this one case study from a small state can somehow prove that any form of tax relief proposed anywhere, at any time is a bad idea. Unfortunately for those making such assertions, the countering case study of North Carolina, a state whose population and economy are three times the size of Kansas’s, rebuts and completely wrecks that bogus argument.
Unlike in Kansas, North Carolina lawmakers were smart to keep spending in check, below the rate of growth in population and inflation, at the same time that they approved $5 billion in tax relief. As a result, the state has realized repeated budget surpluses and has experienced the aforementioned job and economic growth rates exceeding national and regional averages. North Carolina lawmakers now want to use the latest surplus to return money to taxpayers and further improve the state tax code.
3) North Carolina’s two largest cities are major hubs for tech job creation
Chapman University professor of urban studies and Forbes contributor Joel Kotkin recently released the 2017 edition of his annual survey of metropolitan areas with the strongest tech sector job growth. The fact that the Raleigh-Durham area was ranked #6 in tech job growth comes as no shock, given the concentration of tech companies in Research Triangle Park. What will surprise many, notes Kotkin, is Charlotte’s second place ranking after the Bay Area:
“Charlotte, N.C., is more often associated with banks than bots. Yet from 2006 to 2016, tech businesses in the Queen City expanded their job count by 62%, with 18% growth from 2014-16, the fastest clip in the nation. Meanwhile, over the past decade, the metro area logged a 23% increase in the number of workers in STEM occupations (science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related jobs). This rapid job growth and strong recent momentum, driven partly by health care and environmental technology, ranks it second on our list. In the past 10 years, the region has added 7,400 jobs in two key high-tech business services sectors, custom programming and systems design services, along with nearly 700% growth in software publishing employment. To be sure, the share of tech jobs in Charlotte’s economy remains one third that of Silicon Valley, and the tech and STEM workforces are far smaller, but quality of life, lower housing prices, as well as decent plane connections, seem likely to help it to continue to attract tech workers.”
4) Thousands of North Carolina parents are now empowered to provide their children with the best and most suitable education possible, which was not the case as recently as four years ago
Thanks to the Opportunity Scholarship and Disability Grant programs approved by Republican legislators and then-Gov. McCrory in 2013, thousands of children now have opportunities for a better education that did not exist even a few years ago. These programs provide private school vouchers to special-needs students and those from low-income households. Before leaving office, Gov. McCrory approved additional funding for the program, which will permit thousands more to receive a $4,200 voucher to attend the school of their choice.
Parents across North Carolina are taking advantage of the increased choice and opportunity provided by these programs. This year, more than 6,000 children from low-income households will receive an opportunity scholarship. It’s worth noting that these programs, which have enabled thousands of North Carolina children to escape failing schools and have the opportunity to get a better education, were vehemently opposed by Democrats and progressive groups.
5) North Carolina lawmakers considering legislation to solidify state’s status as a hub for microbreweries and craft beer production
Today North Carolina is home to more than 200 craft beer makers. According to the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild, the industry has a $1.2 billion annual economic impact and supports 10,000 jobs.
North Carolina’s craft beer scene really took off after state lawmakers repealed a law in 2005 that capped the alcohol content of beer, which prohibited popular offerings such as Dogfish Head’s 90 Minute IPA from being sold in-state. Now legislation has been introduced this year that would make North Carolina an even more attractive place for craft beer brewers to set up shop.
Once a brewery crosses an arbitrary annual production threshold of 25,000 barrels, North Carolina law requires breweries to contract with a distributor to get their product to market. HB 500, introduced last month by Representative Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), would undo these regulatory shackles that prevent microbreweries from expanding by permitting breweries with annual production of up to 200,000 barrels to self-distribute.
Lifting this restriction on craft beer self-distribution isn’t just great policy; it’s great politics. A recent survey found nearly two-thirds of North Carolinians would be more likely to support a candidate or legislator who supports policies, like HB 500, that promote expansion of the state’s craft beer industry, which is the largest in the American South.
There are a lot of great, national newsworthy things happening in North Carolina. Those are just a few suggestions for where the chattering classes, no longer able to obsess over bathrooms, can start.
This article first appeared in the online edition of Forbes Magazine on April 5, 2017. It’s author, Patrick Gleason, is director of state affairs at Americans for Tax Reform and a senior fellow at the Beacon Center of Tennessee. Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PatrickMGleason