I enjoyed reading my friend John Kane’s Nov. 3 Point of View “Give a green light to better mass transit” in which he shared his reasons for voting “Yes” on the proposed transportation tax referendum. Similarly, I’d like to share the reasons I intend to vote “No.”
Like John, I feel very fortunate to have spent most of my business career in Raleigh, building several businesses over 35 years. Raleigh is indeed a great place in which to live and to do business, and I very much hope to see it continue to be “a dynamic Southern city in a county that attracts new residents and businesses from a variety of locations.”
One of the major attractions of North Carolina – and Wake County – has always been a reasonable level of taxation. However, as many other regions – e.g., California – have discovered, irresponsible tax increases and excessive government spending will ultimately throttle economic growth. If we do not vigilantly keep taxation in check, we will endanger the future growth and prosperity of our region.
Voters are being asked on Nov. 8 to approve a 0.5 percent increase in the county sales tax to support transportation expenditures. Someone’s initial response might well be: “That’s a pretty paltry increase, only a half of one percent.” Well, here’s a bit more context.
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Wake County sales tax is currently 2.0 percent, which means this new increase represents a 25 percent increase in the current country sales tax burden. A sales tax increase tends to be a permanent increase and one which grows over time with inflation. In just the past two years, Wake County raised our property taxes by 1.35 cents and 3.65 cents per $100 in valuation.
The current sales and property taxes raise many millions of dollars currently, and these tax revenues will grow substantially over time as our region grows and with inflation. In addition, if Wake County voters approve this tax hike, they are committing the county to an open-ended transportation system scheme, involving dedicated bus lanes and trains, and spanning at least three counties.
There is significant uncertainty over the future of mass transit. An example is the recent announcement by Uber of self-driving taxis. The history of mass transit in the U.S. has been that the initial expenditures to build the infrastructure are only the down payment, and the annual tax subsidies for operating deficits continue forever. While some of these currently proposed transportation expenditures may eventually prove beneficial, the county should commit to them cautiously over time and should finance them within the confines of our existing sales and property tax rates and, if necessary, voter approved bonds.
Because of the continuing benefits of economic growth and prosperity to Wake County, I ask voters to join me in voting “No” on the transportation tax referendum. Let’s send a message of fiscal responsibility and restraint to our elected representatives – and to the thousands of potential future Triangle residents.
These potential future residents have a choice. They don’t have to move to Wake County; but with a reasonable tax structure and a history of fiscal restraint, we will continue to attract them. There is nothing more pro-growth than fiscal restraint.
Garland S. Tucker III
Chairman, Triangle Capital Corporation
The length limit was waived to permit a fuller response to the Point of View.