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“Do unto others as we did unto ourselves” says NC Democratic leader in favor of tax forgiveness of student loan debt

State Sen. Dan Blue of Raleigh, the Senate’s Democratic leader, said he wants the state to waive income tax on forgiven student loan debt, countering the position of  Republican Senate leader Phil Berger.

Berger told reporters Tuesday that the state would not waive income taxes on forgiven student loan debt, WUNC reported.

North Carolina is one of a handful of states that will tax student debt relief, according to the Washington Post.

An estimated 1.19 million borrowers in North Carolina will be eligible for student debt relief, according to a White House estimate released Tuesday.

President Joe Biden announced last month that borrowers with federal student loans would have up to $10,000 in debts canceled and borrowers with Pell Grants for low-income families would be eligible for up to $20,000 in debt cancellations. To be eligible, borrowers must have an annual income of less than $125,000 for an individual.

Gov. Roy Cooper last week called on Republicans to waive state income taxes on the forgiven student loan debt.

Last year, the legislature voted to waive state taxes on businesses’ forgiven Paycheck Protection Plan loans.  Nearly 260,000 federal PPP loans went to businesses in the state, according to ProPublica. Businesses owned by legislators benefited from the law they passed exempting those forgiven loans from state taxes.

Blue said it was right to waive taxes on forgiven business loans, and the legislature should do the same for forgiven student loans.

“It bothers me that we still want to burden folks,” Blue said.  “We ought to be able to do unto others as we did unto ourselves,” he said, adding that he did not receive a PPP loan.

In a wide-ranging interview with reporters Wednesday, Blue and House Democratic leader Rep. Robert Reives said they were frustrated that no agreement to expand Medicaid has been reached.

Republican legislators are considering expanding Medicaid, which would make an estimated 600,000 low-income adults eligible for health insurance. The Senate bundled Medicaid expansion with changes to Certificate of Need laws in the bill it passed this year. Changes to Certificate of Needs Laws are a long-time goal for GOP senators.

North Carolina is one of a dozen states that has not expanded Medicaid.

The North Carolina Healthcare Association, which represents hospitals, is fighting Certificate of Need changes.  These laws require health care providers to gain state approval before offering new services.

The Healthcare Association made an offer last week that Berger told WUNC was “not a serious proposal.”

Reives called for face-to-face negotiations that include Democratic legislators.

“We want to get it done,” he said. “Nothing works better than deadlines and people having to face each other.”


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NC Republican leaders want a three-judge panel for the next step in a voter ID case, not the judge who initially decided against them

North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders want a three-judge panel to determine whether the state’s voter ID constitutional amendment was legitimately on the ballot.

The state Supreme Court’s Democratic majority in a 4-3 decision last month said that proposed constitutional amendments aren’t automatically valid if legislators who voted to put the questions on the ballot were elected from unlawful districts. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2017 affirmed that 28 legislative districts drawn in 2011 were racial gerrymanders. Legislators elected from these districts voted in 2018 to put constitutional amendments on the ballot.

The state Supreme Court last month sent the case concerning the constitutional amendments back to the trial court to answer more questions.

Legislative Republicans want a three-judge panel to answer those questions about the amendments, not the Superior Court judge who initially ruled against them.

The state NAACP challenged the voter ID amendment and an amendment capping the state income tax rate. As the case made its way through the state court system, the NAACP won in trial court and but lost 2-1 in state Appeals Court.

The Supreme Court agreed with the core of the NAACP argument, but sent the case back to the trial court to determine, using a three-prong test, whether the voter ID amendment and the amendment capping the state income tax were properly put to voters in 2018.

The Supreme Court told the trial court to consider whether the proposed amendments immunize legislators from democratic accountability; perpetuate the ongoing exclusion of a category of voters from the political process, or intentionally discriminate against a particular category of citizens who were also discriminated against in the redistricting process that resulted in the unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts, Policy Watch has reported.

If Republicans are successful in getting a three-judge panel to apply the tests, they would be able to side-step Superior Court Judge Bryan Collins, who initially decided in the NAACP’s favor.

A lawyer for Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said in the court filing that a three-judge panel is the proper forum for considering the questions the Supreme Court wants answered.

Lawyers for the state NAACP said a court filing that the Republican request is frivolous, and if the Supreme Court wanted a three-judge panel involved, it would have said so.

“The Court made clear that the case be remanded back to the Trial Court that originally heard the matter, as is the normal practice,” the state NAACP’s lawyers wrote.

Chief Justice Paul Newby, a Republican who dissented from the Democratic majority’s decision, appoints three-judge panels.