NC sales-tax redistribution bill needs far more study

The following editorial appeared in the Lenoir News-Topic:

If you want a headache, go read Senate Bill 369, a proposal to change how sales tax revenue is distributed.

The stated intent of the legislators who came up with it is to get more money to rural counties by distributing more of the revenue according to population rather than where the sales take place. Caldwell County would, presumably, do better under that kind of proposal.

But the bill reads like a nightmare of centralized, bureaucratic micromanaging. Here is just one small part of the bill’s text:

“A county must use twenty two and one half percent (22.5%) of the revenue received by it under this section for public school capital outlay purposes as defined in G.S. 115C 426(f) or to retire any indebtedness incurred by the county for these purposes. A county may expend part or all of the revenue restricted for public school capital needs in the fiscal year in which the revenue is received, or the county may place part or all of this revenue in a capital reserve fund, provided the county specifically identifies this revenue in accordance with Chapter 159 of the General Statutes.

“A county may use part of all of the revenue restricted by this subsection for any lawful purpose if the county petitions and receives authorization from the Local Government Commission. The petition must be in the form of a resolution adopted by the board of county commissioners and transmitted to the Local Government Commission. The petition must demonstrate that the county can provide for its public school capital needs without restricting the use of part or all of the revenue designated by this subsection for that purpose. In making its decision, the Local Government Commission must consider information contained in the petition concerning all the capital needs of the petitioning county. The Commission may also consider information from sources other than the petition. The Commission must issue a written decision on each petition stating the findings of the Commission concerning the public school capital needs of the petitioning county and the percentage of revenue otherwise restricted by this subsection that may be used by the petitioning county for any lawful purpose.”

On and on.

The bill has been tweaked quite a bit since it originally was filed and came under almost immediate fire from the N.C. League of Municipalities. But the efforts to please everyone seem to be making a Frankenstein of a bill.

This has the feel of yet another issue that could stand some serious study. Why the rush to get this done this year? No one has complained about the current distribution of sales tax revenue.

Absent a crisis or glaring inequality, the prudent thing to do would be to send this bill to a study committee.

Tribune Content Agency