Editorial: Shifty move on sales tax
Initially, it sounds like a shell game. The Republican-controlled legislature wants to let a temporary 1-cent sales tax expire, while giving county governments the option of raising the local sales tax by a penny.
It will cost taxpayers the same, either way.
There are some plusses to the idea that the Rowan County Board of Commissioners endorsed Monday with a resolution of support. The tax is only a proposal at the moment. Before it could go into effect, voters would have to give it the go-ahead on a referendum. And as a local tax, its revenues would be used right here in Rowan County (and its municipalities, presumably), with considerably less bureaucracy than in Raleigh. Goodness knows local government is scratching for revenue, thanks to revaluation and the drop in property values.
But at least four things about this tax switcheroo still give one pause.
First, it comes at a high price for education, which will see deep budget cuts from kindergarten through college as the $1.1 billion raised each year by the temporary 1-cent state sales tax disappears.
Second, taxpayers might not feel as though theyíre getting a break at all when they find themselves paying new and higher fees at every turn ó in court, on ferries, in college tuition checks, at the DMV, at the N.C. Zoo, for driver education and so on.
Third, while the additional $8.8 million in revenue for local government sounds good, the state may withhold just as much revenue that should have come our way from other sources, as Raleigh has done with lottery funds.
Finally, a crucial adjective for the tax as it stands today ó ětemporaryî ó was missing from commissionersí resolution of support. They werenít ready to commit to anything specific. Lawmakers in the General Assembly might say theyíre cutting taxes, but if this plan goes through theyíd just be moving taxes around ó and letting local government take the heat for making the penny tax permanent.
Still sounds like a shell game.