Survey: N.C. business execs want cuts in taxes, budget

HILLSBOROUGH — North Carolina business executives want tax reductions to foster economic growth, according to a statewide survey by the John Locke Foundation presented Wednesday to the Orange County chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy.

“The overall message of this report is they want less government in their business and better tax rates, fairer tax rates because they want to grow, they want to succeed because they want North Carolina to grow and succeed,” said Chad Adams, who works for the Locke Foundation.

The foundation is a Raleigh nonprofit that generally takes a conservative or libertarian view of policy issues.

The report — “Climate Change 2004: Economic Readings and Forecasts from North Carolina Business Leaders” — will be published in June, but Adams thus far has presented its main findings to about 25 groups statewide.

About 20 Orange County residents, a few local political candidates among them, came to the Oyster Bay Seafood Restaurant in Hillsborough to hear the presentation.

“Taxes and regulations are too high and too much in the state,” Allen Page, state director of Citizens for a Sound Economy, said after the meeting.

Adams painted a picture of a “stormy weather map” for North Carolina’s economy.

He said North Carolina lost more jobs than any other state in the Southeast from January 2001 to January 2004. It also was at the bottom in manufacturing, losing 20.9 percent of its manufacturing jobs. One out of every five manufacturers left the state.

According to the report, 97 percent of the business leaders surveyed believed there should be some form of cuts in the state budget.

They believe that state and local taxes are standing in the way of businesses being competitive, and that regulatory burdens stand in the way of their ability to succeed.

The report said 77 percent of respondents believed regulatory benefits don’t justify the costs, while another 61 percent said they would like a move to bring tax rates down. They also felt the state isn’t getting a good rate of return on public education.

Of the 3,000 business leaders surveyed, approximately 66 percent were not in favor of a rail transit system.

The report concluded that the state’s business executives agree on the major issues facing the General Assembly and voters in 2004, opposing tax increases and supporting tax reductions to foster economic growth. They also want an end to the diversion of gas and car taxes to non-highway uses.

Adams said the report has been well received by the public.

“A lot of folks are glad to see that they feel the same way as a lot of business leaders,” he said. “They’re not isolated. They’re in tune with them.”