The House Finance Committee on Tuesday approved plans to restore a tax credit for historic preservation projects, despite a few objections from Republicans.
House Bill 152 would create a scaled-back version of the tax credit, which expired at the beginning of the year as part of a Republican-led tax reform effort. The new credits would pay property owners less than the original program, with an expected annual cost to the state of $8 million. The available credit would be larger in the state’s poorest counties.
Gov. Pat McCrory has made the program a major legislative priority this session.
“This is a huge economic boon for the state of North Carolina, and we can see it in all our communities as we travel around,” said Rep. Stephen Ross, a Burlington Republican and the sponsor of the bill.
Opponents of the program say lower tax rates across the board are a better way to expand the economy. But Ross said a legislative study found that the historic credits have generated 2.5 times as many jobs as an across-the-board tax cut with the same cost.
Because renovating a historic building is more costly than new construction, Ross said the projects likely won’t happen without the tax credit. “That would be a huge lost opportunity, especially for economically depressed small towns that are rich in history but low in wealth,” Ross said.
Rep. Jeff Collins, a Rocky Mount Republican, said he can’t support the proposal unless local governments are required to match the credits. “I don’t see any local commitment here, and that’s always really bothered me,” he said.
Rep. Bert Jones, a Reidsville Republican, also opposed the bill because he said poorer communities would be better off with a grant program that allows them to choose what projects would benefit them.
The historic credit bill now moves to the full House, where it’s expected to pass. The bill faces a challenge in the Senate.