ALEC Southeastern Tax Academy a Big Success
The Center for State Fiscal Reform hosted its latest regional ALEC Academy in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. ALEC was glad to bring the good news of tax reform and pro-growth fiscal policy to more than 20 legislators representing 8 states across the Southeast, from both sides of the aisle. ALEC National Chairman Rep. Alan Clemmons deserves special thanks for hosting the academy attendees in his beautiful legislative district for a weekend devoted to idea-sharing and camaraderie.
The academy began with a welcome address from Rep. Clemmons introducing the ALEC guests to his hometown of Myrtle Beach. Chairman Clemmons presented on the resources, support and opportunities that ALEC membership provides.
Next, ALEC Chief Economist and Vice President Jonathan Williams introduced the academy attendees to the annual ALEC state economic competitiveness report Rich States, Poor States. The Southeast region’s economic outlook rankings varied greatly, from 6th best in North Carolina, down to 29th in South Carolina. Bringing legislators from the region together allowed them to share ideas with each other and speak to their own experiences of how to generate long-term economic growth through competitive tax and fiscal policy reform. Fortunately, ALEC ideas like pro-growth tax policy and worker freedom are winning across the South. Jonathan Williams and Skip Estes’ recent piece in The Wall Street Journal showcased how the ideas shared at ALEC policy academies have led to incredible growth in jobs and opportunity in the South.
Radio Host and former Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives Tim Jones built on Jonathan Williams’ presentation with his presentation of How Money Walks – an examination of how tax and fiscal policy encourages residents to relocate to low-tax states. Migration of residents, businesses and wealth is a relatable issue to many Southeastern legislators, as their states are often the recipient of residents seeking relief from higher taxes up north. Speaker Jones brought attention to what makes the Southeast states different and how their pro-growth tax policies have led to a migration of manufacturing and other jobs from traditional centers in the Northeast and Midwest to the South.
Attendees also learned more about the urgent issue of state debt and financial liabilities. Len Gilroy from the Reason Foundation presented on the public pension liabilities facing states in the region. A combination of factors ranging from poor pension plan design to underfunding has created a pension funding gap of nearly $6 trillion nationally — highlighted in ALEC’s Unaccountable and Unaffordable report.
However, as Center for State Fiscal Reform Research Manager Tom Savidge showed, the state government debt problem is more than just pensions. Savidge presented on the ALEC Other Post-Employment Benefit (OPEB) liabilities and State Bonded Obligations reports. Savidge noted some of the fastest growing states for OPEB debt and listed the top 10 states with bonded debt. He also noted that there is optimism for reform when discussing states that managed to eliminate unfunded OPEB liabilities (such as Kansas) and potential pathways for bonded-debt reform.
Following the first day of programming, attendees were thrilled to have South Carolina Speaker of the House Jay Lucas join the academy to deliver remarks on South Carolina’s economy.
Alabama Representative David Wheeler – and new ALEC member – said it best. “As a new legislator I found the Tax and Fiscal Policy Academy an excellent way to hear what others have done in the region. ALEC’s policy academies are great way to generate ideas and not ‘reinvent the wheel!’ I look forward to ALEC serving as a resource for meaningful public policy.”
From Myrtle Beach, the ALEC Center for State Fiscal Reform heads north to Michigan for its Great Lakes Tax and Fiscal Policy Academy this summer, and the team cannot wait bring the pro-growth message to America’s heartland.