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Voters: ‚??TEL‚?? govt. to stop wild spending

Ever-expanding government budgets represent an equally repugnant threat to taxpayers. Fortunately, there is a way taxpayers can fight back.

In the 1996 movie¬†Star Trek: First Contact, the captain of the Starship Enterprise‚??played by Patrick Stewart‚??responds to the creeping, relentless extraterrestrial threat called ‚??the Borg‚?Ě by exclaiming, ‚??the¬†line¬†must be¬†drawn here‚??this far, no further!‚?Ě

Although the problem of reckless government spending does not involve cybernetic abominations from beyond the stars, ever-expanding government budgets represent an equally repugnant threat to taxpayers. Fortunately, there is a way taxpayers can fight back.

Calculated as a whole, state governments increased spending by 5.7 percent in fiscal year 2014, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). A non-partisan professional association of state finance officers, NASBO is an affiliate of the National Governors‚?? Association.

In November 2014, NASBO‚??s study of state spending found spending increases in ‚??nearly all‚?Ě categories of state spending, reversing fiscal year 2012‚??s trend of declining state government spending.

Although state revenue increased only 1.4 percent in fiscal year 2014, states accelerated their spending sprees, leaning on increased federal subsidization to fuel increases in entitlement and public transportation spending.

States such as Arkansas hiked taxes on voters to facilitate increased spending. In 2014, Arkansas‚?? expenditures increased by about 6.4 percent, climbing from about $4.7 billion to $5 billion. Arkansas taxpayers already bear a combined local and state tax rate of 9.19 percent.

Using data collected by the United States Census Bureau, the state of Arkansas plans to spend about $4,426 per household in 2015.

For that same amount of money, legislators in Little Rock could instead purchase a¬†Reinast luxury toothbrush, the world‚??s most expensive personal oral hygiene accessory, for every household in the state.

In fact, buying this titanium-coated toothbrush might improve the lives of Arkansans more than some government programs cooked up in the Razorback State, such as taxpayer-funded grants for distributing complimentary free birth control for bar patrons.

There is a way to stop the insanity. Voters in 30 states have already approved the implementation of tax and expenditure limits (TEL), fiscal mechanisms designed to provide hard limits against the growth of government spending and tax collections.

According to the National Council of State Legislatures, 23 states have limits on the growth of spending and four states limit how fast taxes can increase. Three states‚??Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oregon‚??have limits on both sides of the government growth problem.

Just as ‚??players will play‚?Ě and as ‚??haters will hate,‚?Ě it is the natural inclination of government to increase spending and taxation until everything has been consumed. Through the enactment and enforcement of TELs, voters can take charge and reduce government‚??s insatiable urge to eat their hard-earned money to manageable levels.

Jesse Hathaway (jhathaway@heartland.org) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.

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