Have Republicans in Raleigh gone to the dark side?

By on March 31, 2015

newruss“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to have a discussion about the inequity in the distribution of sales tax in North Carolina as it relates to the rural counties,” said state Sen. Tom Mcinnis, R-Richmond, who represents Scotland County and is one of the bill’s 13 sponsors in the senate.

This is the logic offered by McInnis and other state Senate Republicans for redistributing sales tax revenue within the state.

If one were to substitute the words “sales tax” with “income tax” and “counties” with individual taxpayers, essentially arguing redistributing such taxes from wealthy individuals to poorer individuals, it would be hard to imagine those words coming from the mouth of a Republican.

In fact, among Republicans and conservatives, the “R” word (redistribution) is the equivalent of the “S” word (socialism).

The Sales Tax Fairness Act
Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown’s plan calls for counties and cities to get their sales tax reimbursements from the state based solely on their population.The changes would be phased in over a three-year period, abandoning the current formula of 75 percent of the revenue distributed to a county or town based on how much sales tax it collects with the other 25 percent based on population.Counties and incorporated cities or towns with shopping malls, big box stores and strong tourist economies would lose the most, while poorer counties without much commerce would benefit greatly.

It is yet another example of how the supposed ideological differences between the two political parties are more akin to the shifting sands on Jockey’s Ridge than they are to any disciplined ideological consistency.

“Getting the government out of lives” is supposedly a mantra to conservatives — unless one is talking about social behaviors such as who one chooses to marry or how women make certain decisions about their own bodies.

“Bringing government back to the people” — the grassroots — is lauded by conservatives, especially tea party-types, unless the grassroots consist of the “wrong” type of people, in which case, exercising democracy in the form of voting deserves some barriers.

As a fiscal conservative, I have no problem with paying my fair share of taxes to help those truly in need.

I also believe, as many Republicans and libertarians argue, that too heavy a burden on those who earn the most money begins to retard investment and spending by those same individuals and can create an economic drag in those areas.

The bill’s primary architect, Sen. Harry Brown, seems to be adopting the philosophy of another senator named Harry — Nevada’s Harry Reid.

The left has often argued that many of the wealthy didn’t get there by sheer dint of their efforts. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren recites this mantra often, as did Pres. Obama in his infamous “you didn’t build that” speech.

The argument of the Republicans who support this redistribution follows the same logic.

It assumes that “rich” counties and cities apparently got that way on the backs of other localities and did nothing on their own to create the prosperity they enjoy.

It also assumes many rural counties, which often work hard to ban the presence of the very shopping malls and big box stores through zoning (often to protect the character and businesses of the local community) haven’t created a part of the environment that forces their citizens to spend their money and sales tax dollars in areas that encouraged such development.

Dare County and its towns made decisions long ago, often unpopular with many locals, to develop a resort that strikes a balance between overly developed Virginia Beach, and say, Emerald Isle, where commercial activity is scarce.

Locally, Manteo has chosen to prohibit fast food restaurants with drive-thru windows and large grocery stores.

As a result, consumer dollars and sales tax revenues from their citizens often find their way to Nags Head.

Should Nags Head be forced to return those revenues to Manteo?

I didn’t think so.

Big cities such as Charlotte and resorts like Dare County spend millions of dollars supporting the infrastructure required to claim titles such as the South’s largest financial center (Charlotte) or one of the east coast’s most sought-after resorts (the Outer Banks of Dare and Currituck counties.)

Those deliberate actions, which create jobs, prosperity and as a byproduct generate huge tax revenues, are exactly the type of arguments conservatives float to discourage most redistributive schemes.

It is almost a religion in conservative circles that those who create wealth should be able to hang on to more of their own money because they, not the state, know how best to spend it.

Brown and his allies are making the opposite argument.

Ironically, if successful, the bill will force the first Republican-controlled Dare County Board of Commissioners in over five decades to raise property taxes.

That can’t be sitting well with the new board.

Worse, they have provided no evidence or oversight to convince us that redistributing those tax dollars would result in wise spending choices that would translate into better educational opportunities or economic growth in the recipient counties.

Republicans trotting out a bill named the “Sales Tax Fairness Act?”

Color me confused.

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