#NCGA: WWThD (What Will Thom Do?)

legislatureThe North Carolina Senate has voted to send one heck of a hot potato over to the NC House. The economic development package creates a new method for handing out corporate welfare — a practice we frown upon in these parts. 

But one part of this legislation has us smiling — a cap on local governments’ ability to raise sales taxes. In our households and businesses — when we don’t have enough money to accomplish what needs to be done — we cut our existing expenses to produce extra funds. Governments, though?  They simply reach out to shake us down for a little more dinero to feed their, um, needs. 

The limit on taxing power has the drive-by media and their fellow big government travelers a wee bit upset: 

The N.C. Senate gave final approval Thursday to a statewide limit on local sales taxes, sending a measure that divided urban from rural counties to the House.

The 31-17 vote came after a failed attempt by Concord Republican Fletcher Hartsell to split the tax provision from the broader economic-development bill it is attached to.

Mecklenburg and other urban counties say the 2.5 percent tax cap would limit the ability of large counties to boost teacher pay and public transit systems. […] 

Actually, it makes them live within their means.  A shocking concept, I know. We’re already being bled pretty dry.  Our “leaders” need to MAN UP, make good decisions,  and do what NEEDS to be done with what they’ve already got. MORE: 

[…] Hartsell first tried to change the cap to 2.75 percent, a move that would allow Mecklenburg County to hold a November referendum on a quarter-cent increase to boost teacher pay and other educational priorities.

Sen. Bob Rucho, the Mecklenburg Republican who has championed the bill, argued that the tax limit was “carefully crafted so there was no hint of a tax increase,” a plan Hartsell’s amendment would upset.

That amendment failed.

Hartsell next invoked Senate rules to propose separate votes on the controversial tax provision and on the rest of the bill. The bulk of the bill, which has broad support, creates a new state fund to attract jobs and expand eligibility for grants under an existing program.

Hartsell found an ally in Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, who said he sees no “need for these two to be joined at the hip.”

Other Republicans lined up to argue against splitting the bill. Rucho said the bill was crafted “so all parts work together” to boost economic growth.

“If we divide this question, if you divide it on any part, you destroy the whole bill,” added Sen. Ralph Hise, a Republican from Spruce Pine.

The amendment failed on a 24-24 vote.

The measure now goes back to the House, whose version of the bill did not include the sales tax cap that the Senate added.

A pretty old legislative trick was put into play here.  Combine two pieces of divisive legislation. You’ll have a faction that likes the economic development part, but hates the sales tax cap.  You’ll also have a faction that hates the economic development piece, but loves the sales tax cap. Vote AGAINST the bill, and you’ll be voting against something that you LIKE. 

As I said, this is now in the House’s lap — begging the question: WWThD?  (What would Thom Do?)  thom sigh

It will be interesting to see how House speaker — and US Senate nominee — Thom Tillis and his leadership team play this. If House leaders KILL the bill, Tillis goes on the record in opposition to protecting taxpayers from the wrath of tax-and-spend local officials.  The same could hold  true if Tillis and his team try to split the bill into two parts like Hartsell suggested. Especially if the split-off tax cap goes down in the House. 

If the bill passes the House intact, Tillis goes on record as favoring MORE corporate welfare — further alienating him from The Tea Party in front of the US Senate vote.  The same could hold true if the legislation is split in the House and the economic development portion passes looking a lot like the Senate version.

Another point to consider if the House passes the legislation as-is —  Tillis runs the risk of ticking off the Charlotte-Mecklenburg political establishment, which strongly supports him and strongly opposes the tax cap.