The era of BIG GOVERNMENT is alive and well in North Carolina.
Generally that term is associated with the Democrat Party, which sometimes carries the reputation of taxing and spending, putting increasingly large amounts of taxpayer money into expansive social programs. Oftentimes, the party is accused of also over-regulating business and individual rights, of acting is if knows better how to spend your money than you do.
That label was richly deserved for the longest time, but the GOP, at least in North Carolina, now claims the ideal of Big Government, though it does manifest itself in a different way.
Over the past couple of years, legislators in Raleigh have taken over an Asheville water system because the state can make more money off of it, have attempted to take over the Charlotte airport, passed legislation that gutted local and regional environmental protection regulations approved by various state and county governments, took collection of local real estate taxes out of the hands of local governments (and took some of that money, too), and now has decided to limit how much sales tax a locality can charge.
The last two items on the list in particular have the potential for a crippling effect on local governments.
Already, Surry County is seeing problems caused by the state taking over the collections of auto tax and tag fees in what the state is calling its Tax and Tag program. Under the new program, the state collects these funds, with a target collection rate of 85 percent.
Unfortunately for Surry County, and we suspect for many localities, that is actually lower than the successful collection rate the county enjoyed until this year. Surry had a 92 percent collection rate. County Tax Director Michael Hartgrove said earlier this year Surry County will likely see about $600,000 less in annual revenue simply because the state stepped in and took over what had been a successful local program.
In addition to the state collecting less money, it is also holding the money, meaning a tax and tag fee collection from a Surry County motorist by the state might not make it into county coffers for several months, as opposed being immediately available as it was under the previous collection method.
Now, the General Assembly is considering legislation that will cap local governments sales tax at 2.5 cents per dollar. That means in an era when the state is cutting its funding to localities and to local school districts, and undercutting local governments’ ability to efficiently collect taxes owed, the state is now also limiting local governments’ ability to even set local tax rates.
There really can be no reasonable explanation for this other than the General Assembly has decided it knows what’s best for Surry County better than local residents and elected officials, and it’s essentially saying the same thing to every resident of every locality in the state — your life belongs to the state.
And there’s virtually nothing that voters will do about it, given that the General Assembly redrew the state districts in a manner than all but ensured most districts are overwhelmingly Republican majorities. Until individuals across the state start voting based on issues and not on party affiliation, this is the new reality of North Carolina; The era of Big, Intrusive Government is here.