Other Voices: Signs of state intrusion on billboards

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 7, 2011

When Interstate 40 to Wilmington was completed, our local legislative delegation fought to keep billboards from cluttering the highway. Many of our cities and towns have adopted ordinances to protect trees and, therefore, the beauty of their communities.
But a pair of matching bills under consideration could usurp those popular efforts and allow for the proliferation of digital billboards, adding yet another distraction for drivers.
Even worse, Senate Bill 183 and its House companion, H309, would give the state Department of Transportation control over vegetation cutting around billboards on state-maintained thoroughfares within city limits, superseding local sign and tree preservation ordinances.
Wilmington has a strong tree preservation ordinance that helps prevent clear-cutting and butchering of foliage. Concerned residents helped promote the regulations, and people tend to raise their voices when they see trees being cut.
The bill also includes language that would permit existing billboards on state and federal roads to be replaced, by right, with digital billboards that can change advertisements every few seconds. …
In moderation, billboards can be helpful. Packed closely together, with bright, frequently changing messages, they are eyesores.
In a Legislature controlled by a party that backs less government and more local decision-making, this bill should be thrown onto the rubbish pile. Let cities, counties and towns decide, based on the preferences of the people who live there.
ó Star News of Wilmington
Well, you canít blame them for asking. And as to the policy rationale, itís because … um … because they could use the money.
Several multinational companies, including North Carolina biggies Duke Energy and Cisco Systems, are angling for a temporary change in the federal tax code that would allow them to duck taxes on foreign earnings spent in this country. Supporters say the change could open the floodgates for investment in jobs, construction and research ó maybe to the tune of $1 trillion.
The 35 percent tax that companies would owe under current law may indeed be a disincentive to import and spend those stockpiled foreign earnings. But companies that are strictly domestic have to reckon with those taxes. Why put them at a disadvantage?
Thereís also no guarantee that multinationals would plow their tax savings into expansions rather than boosting payouts to shareholders. The economy needs help, but so does the federal budget. Tax forgiveness for big corporations looks like the wrong medicine.
ó The News & Observer