RALEIGH: NC Senate considers county sales tax bill - WNCN: News, Weather

NC Senate considers bill allowing counties to hike sales tax

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

A bill that forces counties to choose between using sales taxes to fund either education or transportation is drawing some heat from civic leaders.

The bill, HB 1224, defines a county's ability to raise sales taxes, but it also places some restrictions on how that money can be used.

The bill would cap the local sales tax rate at 2.5 percent, however that does not include the state portion of what consumers pay in sales tax. It allows counties to raise their sales taxes by a half cent; and it specifies that the money can be used for education or transportation, but not both.

"In our work, we quite often hear that we can't do both, education and transit, and therefore take your pick. We strongly disagree with that, in fact," said Danny Kadis, chairman of WakeUP Wake County, a citizens group that addresses the challenges of rapid growth in Wake County. "As a growing, progressive community, we ought to be able to take on all of our challenges."

Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) said the bill allows counties to choose their priorities, whether those may be education or transportation.

"The county commissioners are able to say, 'Right now, education is our priority,' " Rucho said. "Some time in the future, they have a chance of rescinding that, taking back another half a point and moving it to transit. That's their choice."

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce said it is dead set against the plan, adding that it needs to simultaneously fund education and transportation in order for the city to grow.

"If they want to make a critical investment in transportation, they should be able to do that but they shouldn't have to do that at the expense of potentially having to raise more funds in the area of education -- whether it be for teacher salaries or some other support mechanism to make our schools better," said Harvey Schmitt, the president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.

The Senate plans to debate the bill Monday. If approved, it would go to the House, which could happen as early as next week.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

Beau Minnick

Beau covers the North Carolina legislature, delivering valuable insights into state politics. More>>

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