What is TABOR?

The state budget and how to balance it is the most pressing issue facing North Carolina’s elected officials, but some say we need to worry also about future budgets and preventing large budget deficits. This, says N.C. State University economist Mike Walden, is what TABOR is all about.

“TABOR stands for taxpayer bill of rights, and what it tries to do is put limits on future spending in order to avoid deficit situations.

“Specifically what TABOR would do is to put a limit on increases in spending — for example, limit it to the increase in population maybe plus inflation. Or some versions of TABOR say that what you should do is limit spending this year to the revenues you had last year.

“And so supporters say this is a way to get control of spending, which they argue is the real result and the real cause of deficits.

“Critics, of course, say, ‘Well, this is too simplistic.’ There are many expenses, they argue, within the state budget that are not necessarily going to rise at simply the rate of population or inflation. Medical expenses, in particular; K through 12 schools — the population there may grow faster than the limits.

“And so what are you going to do? If you have children and medical expenses to pay, they are not necessarily going to fall under that cap.

“So this is an idea that is out there. Some states have actually applied it. This is certainly an idea that will be vigorously debated.”

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