While attention focuses on which party might win control of North Carolina’s General Assembly on Nov. 2, NC Policy Watch has launched a series of reports looking at what might happen if a bloc of conservatives — both Democrat and Republican — becomes the ruling majority.
NC Policy Watch, a progressive think tank based in Raleigh, studied the agendas of conservative think tanks, candidates, the Republican Party and lobbying groups to identify 13 areas in which conservatives favor “reactionary policy change.”
The opening report by Rob Schofield, an attorney and the group’s director of research, says a conservative majority would push an already pro-business legislature to the far right. He said it would promote conservative social issues while ignoring the interests of workers, consumers and minorities.
Schofield writes, “It seems a sure thing that thinking North Carolinians have much to dread if ideologues do manage to transform current voter frustration with the slow economic recovery into a transformative election.”
John Hood, president and chairman of the John Locke Foundation, a conservative North Carolina think tank, said warnings of an extreme conservative agenda are not merited. He expects Republicans to take over the General Assembly, but the main debate will be over how to close the state’s $3.5 billion deficit.
“When you label yourself progressive, then pretty much every policy initiative you don’t agree with would be labeled ‘reactionary,’” he said. “We can play label games all we want, but the focus of this legislative session will be the budget debate. The left will propose tax increases and federal borrowing and the right will prefer budget cuts. That’s the debate.”
NC Policy Watch thinks conservative leaders would push an agenda that goes well beyond budget issues.
In Schofield’s opening report, he looks at the implications of conservative control for consumer protection issues and LGBT rights. He predicts a push for a return to predatory lending practices recently banned by the state and a push for an amendment to the state constitution barring gay marriage.
Meanwhile, Chris Fitzsimon, executive director of NC Policy Watch, reports on how a conservative majority could change taxation. He writes that anti-tax legislators could deepen the state’s fiscal crisis by refusing to raise revenue while cutting taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals.
Fitzsimon is most worried by a potential push for a so-called Taxpayers Protection Act, or TABOR, a constitutional amendment that would limit state spending to a cap based based on inflation and population growth.
“Versions of TABOR have been adopted through the years in several states around the country, most notably Colorado, which has fallen sharply in national rankings of quality of life measures since voters approved the amendment in the early 1990s,” Fitzsimon writes.
Additional reports will be posted in coming weeks in Fitzsimon’s column Fitzsimon File and Schofield’s column, the Weekly Briefing. All 13 issue forecasts will be compiled in a final report.
(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/jimbowen0306)