06/23/09 — Speaker takes issue with plan to raise taxes

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Speaker takes issue with plan to raise taxes

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on June 23, 2009 1:46 PM

Joe Coletti

A policy analyst for a conservative think tank told Wayne County residents Monday night that Gov. Bev Perdue's proposal to raise taxes by $1.5 billion "isn't necessary."

Joe Coletti, a spokesman for the John Locke Foundation, discussed the state's financial situation, especially its health care problems, at the Wayne County Republican Headquarters.

Coletti is fiscal and health care policy analyst at the foundation. He has authored reports on the state's spend-and-tax budgeting cycle, better ways to fund roads and schools, the earned-income tax credit, business incentives, tax-increment financing, government employee compensation and Medicaid spending. He has also written on employer-based health insurance, long-term care, and the state's mental health system.

Before joining the Locke Foundation, Coletti was the director of policy and communications for the U.S.-Japan Business Council in Washington .

He was in Goldsboro to discuss health care reform and said the John Locke Foundation has a better plan than the current one moving through the Legislature.

"We've come up with a budget alternative that spends about $19 billion, with no tax increase, and makes things fair, and doesn't cut things like the House did originally," Coletti said.

"(The Locke Foundation's proposal) does less damage to schools, less damage to Medicaid and less damage to taxpayers, because we started by looking at programs," Coletti said.

He was critical of the state's "Learn and Earn" program, which allows students to earn up to two years of college credit through online courses.

But most of the Coletti's speech to area Republicans was based on health care reform. He told the gathering that the health care system in the United States puts most of the burden on "third-party" payers, such as employers.

"Boy, it does screw up the incentives, doesn't it? Because if you have someone paying for your insurance, the thing is, that those are both part of your compensation," Coletti explained, adding that many working class people would not understand the difference between being paid directly versus an employer paying for health care. Paying the worker directly, Coletti said, would allow people more choices in deciding what insurance coverage is appropriate for them.

"If they pay you instead of putting it into your insurance, you get to make the decision about the insurance you get. At most companies, you have a choice of one (insurance) plan. Isn't that great? One plan."

Regarding the state budget, Coletti said in a press release that, "It's unfortunate that legislators are considering up to $1 billion in tax and fee increases next year. Gov. Bev Perdue apparently wants them to consider even larger increases. Higher taxes would hurt the state's opportunities for improving job growth.

"With the state's July 1 budget deadline looming, continuing unemployment problems should prompt lawmakers to think twice about adding to North Carolinians' tax burdens, Coletti said. "Budget negotiators should be able to find ideas in that document that would help them take harmful tax hikes off the table, especially when we now have a half million people out of work who are actively seeking jobs.

"Until North Carolina's elected officials stop pursuing policies that stifle innovators and entrepreneurs, the state will struggle to regain its economic footing. Now is a good time for lawmakers to stop setting up barriers to business growth. Let's hope the latest unemployment numbers will remind them that raising hundreds of millions of dollars of new taxes during an economic downturn is a bad idea."