NOTHSTINE: Tillis must lead on tax reform

Credit: USDA/Bob Nichols.

The federal tax code is just shy of 75,000 pages, a stirring indictment of the bloated complexity of government. In comparison, Leo Tolstoy’s epic “War and Peace” is a paltry 1,440 pages in paperback. The current code stifles savings and investment, chokes business, and is frequently used as a weapon for partisan politics.In addition to all that, the $20 trillion federal debt is a reminder of the poor stewardship of government with our tax dollars. That many citizens spend hundreds of dollars just to file their federal taxes is another reason to simplify and reduce the tax burden. Sen. Thom Tillis is well positioned to lead on tax reform in 2017.Tillis has received national attention for leading a tax reform crusade as Speaker of the North Carolina General Assembly. In less than five years, $4.7 billion in tax cuts has positioned North Carolina as an economic model for the nation. As more states look to North Carolina for economic guidance, Americans should look to Tillis for leadership on taxes.In a recent interview with the National Journal, Tillis played up his background as a reformer who hopes to move the needle on policy in the slow-moving Senate. While promoting bipartisan coalition building to get results, he downplayed some of the tactics and goals of conservative activists, warning Republicans that the gubernatorial defeat in North Carolina was a lesson for the party. He called North Carolina “barely right-of-center” and counseled against overreaching on social issues. In reference to the interview, the conservative Civitas Institute currently has a headline on its website that reads, “Tillis Veers to the Left.”There are certainly valid complaints concerning Tillis’s conservative credentials, but his bridge-building strategy will pay dividends if he can help deliver a major tax reform initiative. “Updates to our tax code are long overdue as nearly 30 years have passed since Congress has addressed the issue,” reads Tillis’s Senate website. “Reforming our nation’s tax code should reduce complexity, create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and generate more competition in the global economy.” This is true, but moving major reforms out of Congress, even with Republican majorities, is still difficult.If Sen. Mitch McConnell decides not to pull a Harry Reid to bypass filibuster rules for tax legislation, 60 votes will be required for passage. Tillis, who is believed to covet a leadership role, will be relied upon all the more to help craft a workable bipartisan solution.Along with tax reform, cuts to government, and privatization of some programs will unleash economic growth and a surplus in revenue. It’s an important step towards limiting the federal government’s power according to the Constitution. Most importantly, tax reform is a must not just because it stimulates the economy, but also because it is the right thing to do. Protecting property rights, which include earnings on wages and capital, is one of the foremost functions of good government.Tillis is seen as a key figure because there are so few current senators who have the background and experience to lead a major tax overhaul. Tillis too might ingratiate himself with skeptical conservatives if he can deliver. Even more important than that, without spending and tax reform, Americans will continue to be dragged down by a government it can no longer afford.Ray Nothstine is a member of the North State Journal’s editorial board, separate from the news staff. Unlike other newspapers, the North State Journal does not publish unsigned editorials; the author or authors of every editorial, letter, op-ed, and column is prominently displayed. To submit a letter or op-ed, see our submission guidelines.