Hours after some of North Carolina’s poorest counties came out in support of a plan to redistribute sales tax revenues, Gov. Pat McCrory threatened to veto the proposal, which he called a “left wing idea.”
Critics say shifting sales tax revenues would cause some counties to have to raise other taxes to compensate.
“Redistribution and hidden tax increases are liberal tax and spend principles of the past that simply don’t work,” McCrory said in a statement. “More importantly, this bill will cripple the economic and trade centers of our state that power our economy.”
His comments came hours after a news conference at which dozens of officials gathered in support of the redistribution plan. One called it a matter of “economic survival.”
Joining those local officials was a senator from Union County, one of the winners in the proposed redistribution. “We are reclaiming the dollars we’re spending in Charlotte,” Republican Sen. Tommy Tucker told a packed news conference.
We are reclaiming the dollars we’re spending in Charlotte. This act is about reclaiming our tax dollars … so we won’t continue having two North Carolinas.
Sen. Tommy Tucker
The news conference was hosted by GOP Sen. Harry Brown of Onslow County, whose redistribution plan is part of the Senate budget. Commissioners, school officials and administrators from nearly 40 counties joined him at the noon press conference. So did a handful of senators from both parties for an issue that clearly cuts across party lines.
Brown said his plan would benefit 83 of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Among the losers would be Mecklenburg. While there are different estimates of the impact, Mecklenburg officials say it could mean a loss of more than $200 million over four years. Commissioners Chairman Trevor Fuller called the plan “draconian.”
But officials from smaller counties described it as a godsend.
Madison County, for example, could see a windfall of $1.4 million under one scenario. Commissioner Jim Baker said that would mean a lot to his mountain county.
“We’re really talking about economic survival,” he said.
Ricky Harris, manager of Robeson County, said his county hasn’t built a school since 1983.
Commissioner Don Lancaster of Franklin County said 62 percent of the county’s population works – and spends – elsewhere. All officials are left with, he said, is the property tax. “We simply cannot keep raising property taxes,” he said.
Officials from counties from the mountains to the coast described strained budgets, underfunded schools and a general lack of resources.
While Democratic as well as Republican senators came out in support, the plan apparently faces resistance in the House. GOP Speaker Tim Moore of Kings Mountain has said he hasn’t “sensed a lot of support in the House for it.”
But McCrory said counties would benefit more from his $2.8 billion bond package for roads and infrastructure, which the legislature has yet to pass. He blasted Brown’s sales tax proposal.
“This legislation will decimate our travel and tourism sector,” he said. “Instead of pursuing left-wing ideas that continually fail, it’s time for the General Assembly to get to work on job creation for all North Carolina.”
Brown dismissed McCrory’s criticism.
“I can’t figure out if Pat thinks he is the Governor of Charlotte or the Mayor of North Carolina,” Brown said in a statement.