U.S. Senate candidate Deborah Ross is facing criticism for supporting local sales taxes that fund transit projects.
The conservative group Americans For Prosperity, which receives funding from the billionaire Koch brothers, said Tuesday that the transit tax “cost Triangle families in her region millions more by giving counties this new taxing authority, piling on working people and taking even more from their paychecks.”
The group’s news release doesn’t mention that Orange and Durham counties voted to enact the half-cent transit sales tax in a referendum in 2012. Wake County voters will decide on a similar measure in this year’s election.
The 2009 legislation that Ross, a former Democratic state House member, sponsored allows counties to add the transit tax only if a majority of voters support it in a referendum. The tax in Orange and Durham will help fund a light rail line connecting Durham and Chapel Hill. After leaving the legislature, Ross worked for the regional transit agency GoTriangle, which is overseeing the project.
“It’s time for Ross to come clean about her record of tax increases and explain why she lead-sponsored legislation to raise local transit taxes on top of four statewide sales tax increases,” AFP state director Donald Bryson said. "The transit tax that Triangle residents pay at the register is a direct result of Ross providing local governments that authority in 2009, and one more example why North Carolina can’t afford her in Washington, D.C.”
When Ross introduced the transit tax bill, she said it “puts the tools in place for the kinds of transit options our people need, but it gives a tremendous amount of local input and local control to do it.”
AFP has been sending out 500,000 mailers criticizing Ross’ record in the state House on taxes. The group has so far spent about $300,000 on its efforts against Ross, according to Federal Elections Commission records. The Koch brothers’ political groups have stayed out of the presidential race this year because the billionaires don’t support Republican Donald Trump, but they’ve been active in several U.S. Senate contests.
Late Tuesday, Ross’ campaign issued a statement hitting back at AFP.
“Richard Burr's dark money special interest backers are getting more desperate by the day,” campaign spokesman Cole Leiter said. “Now they're trying to bail out his flailing campaign by attacking Deborah for a bill she passed with broad, bipartisan support that would help North Carolinians get to work and school. Burr's Koch-backed allies are doing whatever they can to distract from his own harmful record on taxes – because they know that North Carolina is sick and tired of politicians who vote to cut taxes for millionaires like themselves and raise them for working people.”