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Sales tax bill worries some lawmakers

While the Senate works on its version of the state budget, some people are nervously waiting for another bill to come out of the chamber.

That would be Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown’s bill to redistribute sales tax revenues from urban areas like Mecklenburg County to rural counties.

The bill would distribute the revenues to counties on a per capita basis, not based on where the sale is made. Under Brown’s version, counties such as Mecklenburg would lose big while rural counties, like Brown’s home of Onslow, would be winners. Sen. Bob Rucho of Matthews has introduced a similar bill that he says would send more money to rural counties but would not hurt urban counties.

Gov. Pat McCrory has called the redistribution scheme “class warfare” that would raise taxes on “millions” of North Carolinians.

With rural interests still strong in the General Assembly, a lot of urban lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are worried. One rumor is that the Brown bill, or something like it, would come to the House packed into a bill with job incentive money, which both the House and the governor want. Several Charlotte-area Republicans say they’d fight any version of the Brown bill.

“I intend to defend Mecklenburg County on that tax bill,” said Rep. Bill Brawley, a Matthews Republican who chairs the House Finance Committee.

He said Mecklenburg accounts for 16 percent of state revenues and gets 9 percent of its spending.

“So Mecklenburg is a cash cow for the state,” he said. “You can milk a cow or eat a cow, but you can’t do both.”