Commentary

Editorial: Berger, Moore have things backwards with latest tax cut proposals

Senate leader Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Tim Moore

As NC Budget and Tax Center Director Alexandra Sirota explained yesterday, the new tax cut proposal from the state Senate is precisely what North Carolina does not need right now. Senate leader Phil Berger has proposed slashing another billion dollars from state revenue. House Speaker Tim Moore has a more modest proposal, but it’s sure to be damaging to essential state structures and services too.

The new proposals have spurred the first of what are sure to be multiple critical editorials in the state’s major newspapers in today’s Fayetteville Observer. After noting the state’s huge and unmet needs in public education, the editorial (“Fix our problems before cutting taxes”) concludes this way:

“The state’s own bureaucracy has been heavily trimmed and many agencies don’t have sufficient staff to get the job done. Mental health care is almost a joke. Lawmakers debate how best to beat our rampant opioid addiction problem while we’re thousands of beds short of the treatment capacity we need to deal with the epidemic.

Many of our roads are a mess, in poor shape and unable to cope with growing volumes of traffic as our state’s population steadily rises. And our highway trust funds fall miles short of what’s needed to fix the problem, given cuts in gasoline tax rates, continuing low fuel prices and the steady rise in average fuel economy for the cars out on our roads.

Those issues and many more need to be addressed, but instead we’re hearing discussion of more tax cuts for this year and next. One bill in the Senate would cut the personal income tax from 5.499 percent to 5.35 percent and expand the amount of income that’s tax-exempt. It would cut corporate income taxes from 3 percent to 2.5 percent next year. Sponsors say that would increase North Carolina’s allure for business, even though there’s no good evidence that state tax rates influence corporate expansion decisions.

It looks to us like they’re trying to hitch the tax wagon to the wrong end of the horse. Let’s make sure we’re taking good care of our kids, our roads and other essential needs and then we can talk about how to give back what’s left over.”

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