Limousine makes an apt prop for protest against Taxpayer Bill of Rights

As if this fall’s ballot isn’t already crowded enough in November, taxpayers could well find themselves asked to vote for a measure that is, depending on who’s talking, the absolute best or absolute worst budget proposal to gain consideration in generations.

It’s Senate Bill 607, also called the Taxpayer Protection Act. It has passed the Senate and could soon come up for a vote in the House. It would constitutionally cap the state’s top tax rate on personal and corporate income at 5 percent (down from 10 percent). It would also limit the growth of state spending in any given year to inflation plus population growth, and would also set aside 2 percent of the General Fund budget for a rainy-day fund.

GOP lawmakers backing SB 607 say it would allow voters to impose those fiscal restraints on all future legislatures by appoving a constitutional amendment via a referendum this November.

Bad idea, says the liberal activist group N.C. Progress. It staged a protest in uptown Charlotte Monday seeking to reframe the issue and re-brand the legislation as the “Millionaire Protection Act.”

N.C. Progress, citing recent increases in sales taxes that disproportionately affect low-income families, calls SB 607 a further shifting of the state’s tax burden from the wealthy to the poor. To underscore that point, activists and senior citizens staged a press conference in front of a limousine to underscore their belief that the well-off are getting lower taxes while the working poor are seeing their tax burden increase.

Republicans certainly have the votes to approve SB 607 and put the issue before voters in November. If they do, look for the messaging war – “Taxpayer Protection” versus “Millionaire Protection” – to rage right up to Election Day.

Opponents headed in the right direction with the limousine-centered press event Monday. Nobody likes paying taxes, so any bill that purports to protect us from taxes automatically triggers warm, fuzzy feelings. But none of us, regardless of political persuasion, take all that kindly to the thought of millionaires racing to the front of the line when tax cuts get passed out.

Voters are also pragmatic. They want good schools and roads, and they know that neither can be had on the cheap. If they grow convinced that such critical public investments are being cut mainly to trim taxes for the wealthy, they’ll say no to SB 607.--Eric Frazier