This morning the North Carolina Senate voted 31-17 to pass H1224.
Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, a Republican from Concord, introduced an amendment to the bill to raise the local sales tax cap to 2.75 percent rather than 2.5 percent. His amendment was defeated.
John Burns, a Raleigh attorney and Democratic candidate for a seat on the Wake County Board of Commissioners this November, spoke to the INDY about how the bill will affect Wake County’s future.
You say H1224 will be disastrous for Wake County, specifically. Why?
The language in the bill as amended would allow most counties in the state to go to a 2.5 percent county sales tax rate and use ¼- cent for education and transit, each. However, very few other counties in the state are in the TTA (Triangle Transit Authority) agreement with Durham and Orange Counties.
Wake, in order to participate in that agreement, needs to address transit by putting ½- cent transit tax before voters. It’s up to voters, they should have the choice that they have been deprived of for the last five years. This act would take that choice away. Currently, Wake has the option to go up to 2.75 percent county sales tax rate. The cap at 2.5 only gives us half a cent of room, and we are statutorily obligated to raise it half a cent.
What I would point out is that Durham and Orange are being allowed to remain where they are. So if County Commissioners in Wake had done what they were supposed to do when the plans were prepared three to four years ago, we would be in the same boat with Orange and Durham and not sitting out here by ourselves. (Some Wake Commissioners') delays on transit have cost Wake County dearly.
What options are left for Wake County if the bill passes?
I hope the House will defeat that portion of the bill. If not, I hope the Governor, as a former Mayor of a large urban area, will see how damaging it is. I’m not certain what we would have to do (if the bill is signed into law). We would find a way to support education and transit. I won’t be put in a box by Senator Rucho. We will deal with the situation when it comes. I hope we can beat this thing.
I would like Paul Coble and the other County Commissioners to help us fight this. Coble campaigned for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives (in 2012) across several counties. I’m sure he has contacts all over the state. It would be nice of him to put those contacts to use to fight this bill.
Why do you think Sen. Bob Rucho and Sen. Rick Gunn introduced the bill?
I don’t know why they introduced it. I would have to think irrationally to come up with this. I have a feeling it has something to do with the education sales tax being placed on the Mecklenburg ballot without Sen. Rucho’s consent.
I don’t know why Sen. Gunn, R-Alamance, is supporting it. His county would benefit greatly, if the Triad were to reach out to Alamance County on a transit plan. It is the key link between the Triad and the Triangle. One would think he would want to be integrated into that system eventually.
The whole idea here has been that the people of Wake deserve a chance to vote on whether they want to do this. The Senate has taken this away from the voters of Wake. It takes that choice away and it makes no sense. It’s killing the goose that lays the golden egg and I can’t understand the resentment towards the state’s largest economic engine.