RALEIGH — To promote their tax plan, Senate Republicans encouraged taxpayers Tuesday to visit a new website and calculate how they would fare under the legislation.
“We know people in this state will have questions … we want their input,” said Senate leader Phil Berger in promoting the website.
But the website – nctaxcut.com – serves a dual purpose as a political tool to collect some users information and highlight Berger, a potential U.S. Senate candidate in 2014.
It is a production of the Senate Republican caucus, an arm of the N.C. Republican Party led by Berger, the president pro tem. No taxpayer dollars were used, a disclaimer states.
The main feature is a tax calculator, created with the help of the Tax Foundation, a conservative Washington, D.C.-based group. It allows users to input annual household income, add dependents and filing status and estimated state deductions and annual spending to produce an estimate of how the tax plan affects specific users.
With the click of a button, users can also sign up for the Senate GOP newsletter. And to see the calculator’s full results, users must input name, email address and zip code.
Ray Martin, a Senate Republican caucus strategist, tried to dispel privacy concerns. He said the party is not collecting users income information, only their contact information if they choose to input it. The data will then be used to communicate with users about the legislation as it moves through the legislative process.
Martin emphasized that contact information is not needed to get a baseline calculation.
Another feature of the website is a four-minute, campaign-style video introducing the plan featuring Berger. The website also features a “Meet Phil Berger” section and a link to a seven-minute biographical video about the Eden Republican.
Chris Sinclair, a Republican digital strategist, said the optics raise speculation that Berger is using the tax plan to boost his profile. “When you are talking about the tax plan, why do you have to have a whole section about Phil Berger?” he asked.
Martin said it’s typical for Berger to represent the caucus. “He’s the primary spokesman for the plan,” he said.