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As the short session winds down at the General Assembly, many items of interest to North Carolina CSE are being debated and voted on.
While this week did not bring the passage of a State Budget, negotiations continued. As I said in last week’s report, while the Budget Bill passed by the Senate does not include new tax increases, last session’s increases remain and spending is up. CSE is concerned that the passage of the current budget proposal will increase the likelihood of a tax increase next session. In an interview this week, Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand responded to that very concern by saying, “Well, we will look at that when the time comes!” Now I admit that Gone With The Wind is my favorite movie and Scarlett O’Hara declaring ‘I’ll think about that tomorrow” makes for comic levity and high drama. While that line worked well for Vivian Leigh and the makers of Gone With The Wind, I just do not think it works in conjunction with our important budget process.
In previous reports and at CSE Day, I have spoken about HB1585/SB1210 Phase II Stormwater Management. In the originally proposed form, this bill was a RAIN TAX. The proposal changed significantly before passing the Senate this week. While the fee component remains higher than need be, HB1585/SB1210 is NO LONGER A RAIN TAX and both CSE and the Home Builders Association are pleased that the “area” included has been significantly reduced. I have spoken with a representative from The Home Builders Association about working together next session on having the fees brought more in line with where we believe they need to be.
In previous reports I have spoken of efforts to either eliminate or cap the variable rate of our gas tax. Unfortunately, I fear this week represents the end to either possibility. The proposal to eliminate the variable rate has not been brought forth in committee and the proposal to cap the rate was sent off to a sub-committee.
After twenty years of lobbying and litigation, this week saw the passage of a bill I told you about last week: Monentary Compensation/Outdoor Advertising. The bill requires local governments to pay monentary compensation for the removal of lawfully erected outdoor advertising signs. While the bill does not apply to regulations already in place, the vast majority of North Carolina municipalities and counties have no such pre-existing regulations thus will be under obligation of the new law.
Our most determined pro-cigarette tax increase Senator was at it again this week. In the Senate Committee on Health and Human Resources, during a discussion about disease management, Senator Ellie Kinnaird stated, “I would like to put in my two cents worth for a tobacco tax since many of these diseases are caused by tobacco use.” At a campaign forum later in the week, Senator Kinnaird again trumped a tax increase on cigarettes, “Instead of a State Lottery, I would like to see a cigarette tax increase!” While North Carolina CSE continues to appreciate Senator Kinnaird’s stand on a State Lottery, we certainly wish she felt differently about other kinds of regressive taxation.