Let’s make sure this is correct. The General Assembly wants to reduce state expenditures so to help with that effort one thing they are considering is shifting a number of costs from state government to local government.
In the next breath, as the local governments are trying to figure out how they are going to pay these unfunded mandates, the state now comes along and, at least some legislators want to clip the ability of some of the state’s largest counties, including Wake, to levy a specific tax to help pay those increased costs.
Forgive us for thinking someone in the General Assembly must once have had an absolutely terrible experience dealing with their local government and now sees an opportunity to exact some payback.
That’s about the only reason we can come up with for defending a series of entirely illogical moves.
For years, we have heard legislators scream bloody murder about the unfunded mandates handed down from the federal government that force legislators to make difficult choices between programs the must pay for and services they think are equally important.
Now, it seems our legislators have decided they can play that game too. They’ve worked to shift mental health care costs to the counties. They’ve forced counties to take on more and more of the burden for Medicare and Medicaid. The governments they’ve foisted these costs upon and already limited in their ability to raise funds. Property taxes are the major tool at the disposal of local government. Unlike taxable income counties and towns can’t expect the amount of land under their jurisdiction to grow. The increase in the value of land is limited and, as we saw just a few years ago, it’s subject to wild swings in the market.
Now comes this: some counties in North Carolina have been given permission to add to the sales tax in small increments. Doing so can generate millions of dollars per year in a county like Wake.
Commissioners have considered, after much prodding, an increase to that tax to help pay for mass transit improvements that have already been voted upon by other voters in the region such as Durham and Orange counties.
If this legislation passes, Wake’s ability to pay for those improvements – if voters say they want them – will go out the window.
We just wonder who on Jones Street has such a vengeful spirit.