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Help counties cope with rising costs

A state study commission plans to recommend to the General Assembly next year that the state should phase out counties’ share of Medicaid financing by 2011. The proposal adopted Wednesday by the joint Blue Ribbon Commission on Medicaid Reform would cap Medicaid costs at 2004-05 levels and gradually reduce the 15 percent share now paid by counties.
We agree. These expenses are an increasing burden to local governments, especially those like Lincoln County, which are experiencing population growth and the accompanying costs. Lincoln taxpayers are trying to cope with the huge price tag of new schools. There’s just not much room for additional expenses in the budget.
State lawmakers must give more consideration to measures that help local government instead of hurt them.. During his re-election campaign Gov. Mike Easley was deservedly attacked for holding on to revenues that usually go back to local government.
We would also point out, as we have repeatedly in these columns, that local governments need tax and revenue options other than the over-burdened property tax. It’s amazing that state legislators keep shaking their heads to such options as realty transfer fees as if they are avoiding “more taxes.” The fact is that by denying these options, the legislature is forcing local governments to raise the over-burdened property taxes. It is likely to happen here in Lincoln County during the next few years to pay off an increasing bond debt.
Enlightened state officials who have studied North Carolina’s tax system have known for years that it is outdated and needs major reform. The question is, when will legislators get around to the task? Probably not soon enough for local taxpayers, who should realize by now that their local government raises property taxes only because state lawmakers won’t let them do anything else.

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