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Rucho resigns committee post; Berger isn’t having it

Sen. Bob Rucho, a Republican from Mecklenburg County who was the chief architect of the Senate’s original tax plan, has resigned as co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Rucho’s resignation came just days after Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger unveiled a new tax plan that walked back several provisions in Rucho’s plan, including a proposal to add a state sales tax to food and prescription medicine, and expand the sales tax to numerous services.

Rucho said Thursday morning that he thought a legislative meeting earlier this year with economists showed “a clear pathway” to tax reform, which his bill reflected.

“There just seemed to be a lot of resistance from a lot of special interest groups that would rather have loopholes than fair tax policy,” Rucho said.

In his resignation letter to Berger, Rucho wrote: “It’s a huge disappointment that the Governor and the Speaker of the House did not provide the leadership or have the political backbone to fight the special-interest groups ... ”

The plan Berger introduced has more in common with the House tax plan championed by Speaker Thom Tillis and endorsed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Berger responded by sending Rucho a one-sentence letter saying he would not accept Rucho’s resignation.

Rucho’s bill has been stuck in committee since being introduced.

In announcing his tax plan earlier this week, Berger said he took into consideration concerns that had been raised and worked those into the bill so that comprehensive reform legislation could advance.

Rucho’s original plan would collect taxes on Social Security benefits for many retirees and extend the sales tax to more than 130 services. It drew criticism from those who feared they would end up paying more under the proposal.

The state’s chapter of the AARP, for example, complained that its members rely on the exemptions for food, prescription drugs and Social Security income. Berger’s plan doesn’t extend the sales tax to services that aren’t currently taxed.

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