Sen. Rucho revolts over tax compromises

June 13, 2013 

State Sen. Bob Rucho sounds different from other lawmakers. Despite his years in the South, he has a New England accent thick as clam chowder.

But the way Rucho speaks is distinctive in another way. He’s candid, direct and eager to debate. That’s why it’s disappointing, and telling, that he announced this week that he is quitting as co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

In his resignation letter to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, Rucho wrote: “It’s a huge disappointment that the Governor and the Speaker of the House did not provide the leadership or have the political backbone to fight the special-interest groups.”

Rucho, a Mecklenburg County Republican, has pushed to phase out the income tax and extend the state’s sales tax on more services and to food and prescription medicine. It’s a dramatic proposal, and one with which we disagree in almost every respect.

But Rucho and his plan have the virtue of being what they seem: anti-tax and pro-business. That’s what Republicans said they would bring to Raleigh. Instead, they’ve sidetracked into social issues, trying to privatize public schools and taking mean-spirited – and economically damaging – swipes at the unemployed and the poor who need medical insurance.

On the issues they’re supposed to be here for, job creation and enhancing government efficiency, the Republican leadership has been alternately adrift or at odds. Now they’re offering up budget and tax plans from the Senate and House that are a hodgepodge of tweaks and concessions that will succeed only in leaving the state short of funds.

“There just seemed to be a lot of resistance from a lot of special interest groups that would rather have loopholes than fair tax policy,” Rucho said.

Rucho’s notions on taxation are misguided, but the Republicans could use more of his directness and his willingness to address the state’s antiquated, exemption-ridden tax structure.

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