The tide of anti-tax sentiment may finally be ebbing here in North Carolina.
Voters in six North Carolina counties went to the polls this year to vote on increasing the local sales tax rate to support public investments in education, economic development, and transit. In all six cases, voters approved adding a quarter-cent or more to the local sales tax rate.
Last night, voters in four North Carolina counties – Buncombe, Durham, Montgomery, and Orange — approved raising the local sales tax rate. Those approvals come on the heels of two successful sales tax referenda in Cabarrus and Halifax counties earlier this year.
These results contrast sharply with similar referenda in recent years. Last year, amidst the rise of the anti-tax Tea Party, voters in 16 North Carolina counties rejected increasing the local sales tax to fund public investments. Only in seven counties did voters approve adding a quarter-cent to the local sales tax, and none of those approvals came during the November election.
Yet even in 2008, long before the rise of the Tea Party and hardly an election year noted for strong anti-tax sentiment, 31 counties rejected increasing the local sales tax compared to only three counties that approved an increase.
The major shift in voters’ attitudes toward increasing taxes to pay for local public investments is almost surely associated with the increasing awareness of the vital role of public investments and services in creating vibrant, economically secure communities, especially as the results of budget cuts at the state and local level have become more and more visible in recent months.
Voters may never be enthusiastic about the prospect of raising taxes, but the evidence suggests that they are increasingly willing to step up to ensure adequate funding for the public investments and services that those tax dollars make possible.