What it says: The ad shows images of Kay Hagan with graphics similar to the Olympics. Narrator: "What if they gave gold medals for financial irresponsibility?" Announcer: "The gold medal goes to Kay Hagan." Narrator: "Budget writer Kay Hagan helped double state debt. The gold for government waste?" Sports announcer: "Kay Hagan." Narrator: "Hagan's budgets pushed North Carolina to the highest taxes in the Southeast. And the gold for twisting the truth?" Sports announcer: "Kay Hagan." Narrator: "The press said Hagan’s TV ad was 'overstated, inaccurate.'" Sports announcer: "Kay Hagan." Narrator: "The National Republican Senatorial Committee is responsible for the content of this ad." The ad says "Highest Taxes in Southeast 2006."
The background: The ad raises three issues: high taxes, state debt and a previous Hagan ad.
TAXES: Every year, the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based think tank, analyzes the combined state and local tax burden in all 50 states.
According to its overall ranking, North Carolina had the 17th highest burden in 2006.
The think tank does not break out the rankings by region, but the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank in Raleigh, has compared those numbers to other states in the region.
The Locke Foundation defines the Southeast as Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
If those states were included, North Carolina would have been second highest in 2006, after Arkansas.
DEBT: The state constitution requires the legislature to balance the budget, so North Carolina's debt does not come from annual budget deficits.
Instead, the debt comes from bonds issued by the state to pave highways, build jails and college buildings and pay for other projects. The bonds are backed by the state's expected tax revenue.
From 2002 to 2007, Hagan was a co-chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations committee.
During those five years, the state's overall debt went from $3.5 billion to $6.9 billion — nearly doubling.
North Carolina is one of only seven states to have top rankings from all three.
HAGAN'S ADS: In an ad run in August, Hagan's campaign claimed that she "reach(ed) across party lines to ban driver's licenses for illegal immigrants."
A previous Claims Department by the N&O found that claim overstated the supporting role she played in that bill and the Senate Democrats' previous opposition to stronger proposals from Republicans.
The ad's "account of Hagan's role on the driver's license bill is overstated and inaccurate," the article noted.
Is it accurate? Yes and no. The claims about state debt and Hagan's previous ad are true. But the definition of the Southeast used by the John Locke Foundation is bizarre. Though the ad correctly cites the foundation's research, the claim is misleading.
— Ryan Teague Beckwith