The General Assembly must really have a problem with local government.
First they worked to wrest control from towns seeking to manage their own appearance.
Now they’ve adopted a budget with lightning speed that sticks it to local government and forces them to either provide fewer services or raise taxes where they can to make up for the loss.
The tax plan adopted over a 24-hour period and signed quickly by Governor Pat McCrory means towns like Garner won’t be able to collect privilege fees from companies that want to do business in those towns.
The fees aren’t all that huge, sometimes as little as $100, but pooled together they are a significant enough resource for towns that their loss will mean something.
The General Assembly seems content to let towns languish in the name of attracting business.
Over time, though, that strategy is likely to backfire.
As towns lose control over their ability to govern themselves and lose resources that help keep those towns attractive, the state will find itself trying to attract businesses to fill spaces in blighted areas. That won’t be an easy sales pitch. How many times have we seen it necessary for a local government to invest in a blighted area to jumpstart redevelopment?
The General Assembly is clearly doing all it can to open the doors to business in North Carolina. Fracking is on the fast track. Efforts to roll back decades of reasoned rules and regulations keep coming back to legislators. And the state is now working to shed its responsibilities to the poor and elderly. We can only assume those people just don’t count in the state’s calculus.
In Garner, losing the privilege tax will amount to a loss of about $32,750. In and of itself, that’s not a catastrophic loss. But when you consider that the town is already having to increase taxes to make up for lost funding in other places, namely fire department funding from the county, Garner officials are finding themselves with fewer and fewer options to make up for lost revenue.
Town leaders are, at some point, going to be forced to tell residents they can not provide the services residents have demanded. Or they are going to find themselves forced to raise property taxes on each and every property owner in town.
Good governance demands a responsible division of responsibilities. The state is busy shedding itself of responsibilities as quickly as it can. That’s not what they were sent to Raleigh to do.