By John Peters
November 23, 2013
Local non-profit agencies seem to be up in arms over a new tax instituted by the General Assembly.
Actually, it’s not so much a new tax as it is part of the so-called tax reform taken on by the legislature, in which the General Assembly lowered personal income tax rates, a move that primarily cut tax bills for the rich and dropped the corporate tax rate. The reforms raise the effective tax rate on the poor and much of the middle class (at the same time the legislators were cutting benefits to the poor and rejecting federal dollars that would extend health insurance to state residents who could afford none), but does so in the name of fairness, according to those who voted for the measures.
While many legislators like to claim this will put more money in the pockets of North Carolina residents, what they mean is that it will put more money in the pockets of the rich and relatively well-off — whose votes the GOP lawmakers covet — while hurting those who are poor or at the bottom reaches of the middle class. Since those folks primarily vote democratic anyway, Republican lawmakers really don’t care about them (but just to be sure, they put in restrictive voting laws that make it difficult for the poor, the elderly, and the young to vote).
Unfortunately, the poor have no political action committee or effective watch dog group taking up their cause. There’s little money to be made for defending them, so few organizations do. Individuals who try to take up their cause are ridiculed and called names by the governor and those on the right.
Now, however, those reforms are hitting non-profit agencies across the state, such as the Surry Arts Council and the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.
Leaders of those two organizations say these reforms will eat into their already thin operating budgets, that collecting and reporting the tax could increase their costs, which in turn means they will have to charge more to their members and patrons. And that, they fear, could drive some of those people away, putting them in more difficult financial straits.
One could almost say the corporate world is mimicking the world of individuals. Larger corporations are benefiting from the tax reforms, while the poor of that world — the non-profits that struggle to survive — stand to take a financial hit.
Unfortunately, our legislative representatives don’t seem to care too much for the business poor any more than they do for the individuals who are struggling.
Rep. Sarah Stevens conceded that no one wants to pay taxes, but this is just “a sales tax like everyone else has to pay,” and it’s only fair that non-profits have to participate as well.
State Sen. Shirley Randleman quoted the party line that this will put more money in the pockets of state residents, then hide behind the old argument “I don’t know why the law was written that way” when questioned on additional details.
We feel badly for the museum and the arts council, as we do for other nonprofits who will find life more difficult now that this new tax is about to go into effect. The museum and arts council add immeasurably to the quality of life in Mount Airy and Surry County. Their existence helps draw visitors to the area, exposes school children to the culturally and socially enriching qualities of the arts, and even contributes to economic development efforts to bring businesses and individuals to this community.
As troublesome as these new taxes will be, at least these organizations have the possibility of passing on the added trouble and expense to a membership and client base. For the individuals who are being hit in the same way, they have no choice but to suck it up and keep going, even if that means a little less food on the table every week, or utilities being turned off, or foregoing necessary medical attention.
Because North Carolina wants to be fair.