Presnell bill now includes new sales tax option

Jul 16, 2014

A two-page bill introduced by Rep. Michele Presnell, R-Burnsville, to change provisions of the law that pave the way for providing up to $12 million in funding for which Evergreen Packaging could be eligible has morphed into an economic development bill Republicans say will improve jobs in the state.

After House Bill 1224 passed the house, it was revamped in the Senate Finance Committee to include a number of provisions N.C. Department of Commerce Sharon Decker said were needed to attract industry to the state.

"I didn't even know they were doing that to my bill," Presnell said. "I got up this morning and my bill went from a two-page bill to a 14-page bill overnight. They didn't ask me."

Since the provisions were at the request of Decker, Presnell said she was OK with the changes, including the ones that allow commissioners to had increased sales taxes within their counties.

One of the provisions added to Presnell's bill allow commissioners to implement up to a half cent sales tax to help fund additional teachers or teacher assistants, teacher raises, school construction needs or community colleges at the local level, providing it is passed by a local referendum.

"If that's what the people want, then I'm OK with it," said Presnell in a Wednesday interview.

Other changes would expand eligibility for the state’s Job Maintenance and Capital Development Fund (JMAC), a program designed to retain jobs in rural North Carolina, making more businesses eligible for the grant program, including those making capital investments to become more energy efficient.

The bill also creates a Job Catalyst Fund for large manufacturers that meet minimum criteria – including a requirement to create at least 500 new jobs and increases the cap on the Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG) program, providing the N.C. Economic Investment Committee and the Secretary of Commerce an additional $14 million next year to deploy for economic development and job recruitment.

The education provisions give county commissions more flexibility in using the revenue generated from existing local option sales taxes in addition to the option of generating new sales tax revenue.

Under the bill, counties may use the existing local option sales tax that currently may only be used for public transit to support public education spending in classrooms at the local level. Under the expanded authorization, a county could implement up to a half cent sales tax to help fund additional teachers or teacher assistants, teacher raises, school construction needs or community colleges at the local level — if passed by a local referendum.