The Senate's unexpected pitch

By Scott Mooneyham | Jun 13, 2013

RALEIGH -- For the last decade, as state legislators and other state leaders have spoken about reforming North Carolina's tax structure, not many have broached the subject without uttering something about the current code being antiquated.

Republicans, Democrats and anyone in between who has taken up the cry of tax reform almost always mentions that this state's tax code was largely written during the Great Depression.

The reason that matters is because the economy was a goods-based economy then. The state sales tax, one of the three main pillars of the state's tax structure, captured most retail sales transactions.

It doesn't now.

Today, a majority of retail sales transactions involve services, most of which are not taxed.

That basic problem spawned the push for tax reform in North Carolina.

And a tax overhaul plan expected to be given final approval by the state Senate early next week does not address that basic problem.

Instead, after scuttling an earlier, comprehensive tax plan, senators are poised to approve a plan that is a tax cut, not tax reform.

It would eventually cut $1.3 billion in taxes a year on a state general operating budget that, this coming year, will total about $20.5 billion.

Senate leaders would achieve that tax cut mostly by eliminating the corporate income tax and reducing the personal income tax to a flat 5.25 percent rate, while also eliminating most income tax deductions.

There are some other changes -- including dropping the local sales tax on food but then allowing counties to reimpose it -- but most of the tax cut is accomplished with the broad strokes above.

As I've noted previously in this column, tax reform was never going to be easy. One of the casualties appears to be the Senate's chief tax architect, Republican Sen. Bob Rucho of Charlotte, who quit his chairmanship of a powerful Senate committee as the latest plan was unveiled.

Rucho had spent weeks authoring that earlier, comprehensive Senate tax plan.

But other Senate leaders decided to ditch that proposal, which would have put sales taxes on just about every service, because it angered nearly every interest group in the state.

Their alternative, though, is difficult to see as serious public policy. It looks more like political gamesmanship.

Senate leader Phil Berger touts the lower tax rates as a way to help to improve the state's business climate.

But he and other Senate Republicans ignore the damage that carving out better than 5 percent from the state's revenue stream will inflict on another key driver of economic prosperity, the state's community colleges and universities.

Meanwhile, Berger and friends have undermined a more realistic approach to tax reform taken by Gov. Pat McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis and his fellow House Republicans.

Throwing a high, hard fastball to a new governor and the GOP's current, presumptive U.S. Senate nominee (Tillis) sure doesn't look much like team ball.

And thinking that any of the players could win on tax reform without some team ball seems pretty unrealistic.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Charles Zimmerman | Jun 14, 2013 10:39

     Most certainly taxes should be collected on services.

     The stated intent of OUR secular government is to equally protect its citizens. Whereby each and every consumer who has the ability to do so must contribute to the tax base equally in regards to consumption. Excluding store-bought food and medicines and entitlements,  neccessary family supplies.

       Income taxes should once again be based on ability to pay. Just as each and every one has the ability to provide based on their own abilities so too should they be taxed. In order to prevent too much power to accumulate in too few hands, this requires income taxes to be progressive in nature to be fair. Even more so for inheritence.

         My suggestion is to start at the poverty line and tax at .01% of income and progreesively raise the rate as income rises such that $1,000,000.00 of income would be taxed at 10%. This would create a known straight line easily calculated. Especially as I would eliminate all deductions. Except those neccessary to sustain life. Medical, food, entitlements, school supplies, neccessary family items.

                  No more "incentives". Bribery is bribery. Taxes removed from the public till in order to "promote buisness" is robbing from all other taxpayers whether in competion or not with those being subsidized.

                 Education is the key. An educated populace provides the only true incentive for any new buisness. A populace educated in the sciences of Nature and the sustainability thereof will create new buisnesses and provide new jobs, whether in agriculture or any field such as social or medical services, etc that rely on a knowledge of Nature. This knowledge requires no leap of faith to believe in. It is "self-evident". It will lead to a populace who will once again embrace the Liberty of self-determination as oppossed to the oppression of subjugation.


Chuck Zimmerman

311 Locust Drive

Waynesville, N.C. 28786


If you wish to comment, please login.