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    No-Tax Pledge Overrun by State's Troubles, Some Legislators Say

    BY Wade Rawlins
    09/03/2001
    by Wade Rawlins on 9/3/01.

    Overheard:

    'I put the Republicans on record as voting to reduce taxes, but for sin at the same time. I had the best of both worlds.'

    - Rep. Bob Hensley, a Raleigh Democrat, speaking of his amendment to reduce the state excise tax on liquor, which Republicans supported

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    Political Scorecard:

    UP: Nonpartisan judges. District Court judges would run for office without identifying as Republicans or Democrats under legislation passed by the General Assembly to help take partisan politics out of judicial elections.

    DOWN: Payday lending. A state law authorizing payday-lending stores expired Friday, meaning that most of the more than 1,000 branches that provide cash-advance services are no longer allowed to make new transactions.

    UP: Gang of Eight. Representatives Dan Blue, Toby Fitch and a small group of Democrats flexed political muscle to win House passage of a tax package with a smaller sales tax.

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    In the days before and after the state House of Representatives passed a major package of revenue-generating measures, two anti-tax groups reminded some House Democrats of the pledges they had signed not to raise taxes.

    Before the vote, Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-tax group, ran radio ads urging six House Democrats not to break their pledge to vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.

    The ads ran in the districts of Reps. Nelson Cole of Reidsville, Zeno Edwards of Washington, Ronnie Smith of Newport, David Redwine of Ocean Isle Beach, Daniel Barefoot of Lincolnton and Jim Crawford of Oxford. Damon Ansell, vice president of policy for ATR, said the group bought $ 30,000 in advertising.

    After the vote, another anti-tax group weighed in.

    N.C. Citizens for a Sound Economy said that 62 House members had signed its pledge not to raise taxes and that 10 of those lawmakers had broken the pledge. The 10 legislators that CSE identified included the six previously mentioned and Reps. Andy Dedmon of Earl, Gene Rogers of Williamston, Dewey Hill of Lake Waccamaw and Alex Warner of Hope Mills. All 10 are Democrats.

    "We will be sending information to local newspapers about people who broke the pledge," Jonathan Hill, state director of CSE, said.

    What do the targeted legislators have to say?

    Crawford said five ads an hour had been running for three days in his district, but they had generated very few calls.

    "I'm not intimidated," Crawford said. "I'm more likely to break the pledge because of the intimidation tactic."

    Another targeted legislator, Redwine, said North Carolina's financial condition had changed drastically since he signed the pledge.

    "What was disturbing was I asked two months ago to be released from the pledge I signed almost a year ago," Redwine said. "Conditions and circumstances have changed since I signed the no-tax pledge. Because of those changes, I felt it would be very irresponsible to continue to hold that position."

    Informed of the ads, House Speaker Jim Black, a Matthews Democrat, said, "That's kind of a waste of money to be running ads now. I hope they run a lot of advertising."

    ###

    Capps questions criticism of e-mail:

    Rep. Russell Capps, a Raleigh Republican, came to the defense of his Christian conservative colleague Rep. Don Davis after Davis stirred protests and calls for his resignation by forwarding racially charged e-mail to other lawmakers.

    In letters to newspapers, Capps said, "Never would this gentleman knowingly act to make racial slurs toward anyone. Only those who are ultra-racially sensitive would have come to that conclusion, regarding Don's purely innocent move to share the Patrick Henry article with other members."

    Davis forwarded e-mail that said that white men and Christianity made America great and that every problem could be traced to departure from God's law and the disenfranchisement of white men. The e-mail message was prefaced by a quote from Patrick Henry.

    Asked initially by reporters about the e-mail message, Davis said he thought it contained a lot of truth and didn't see anything that would offend anyone. After coming under public criticism, Davis apologized if he had offended anyone.

    Capps criticized Rep. Leslie Cox, a Democrat from Sanford, for saying that he was disgusted and ashamed by what Davis did, accusing Cox of grandstanding. Cox was one of a half-dozen legislators who publicly denounced Davis.

    "In the opinion of everyone I've heard comment, what Cox did toward Davis was far worse than Davis' innocent move in forwarding an e-mail he had received, perhaps had not analyzed as fully as he might, but made no comment on," Capps said.