Even if he doesn’t (as is rumored) become Governor-elect McCrory’s budget director, Art Pope will be a power.
So – despite its disclaimers – let’s assume the Civitas Institute channels Pope’s thinking when it proposes doing away with the state income tax and replacing it with a broader sales tax.
And let’s assume that McCrory and the Republican legislature have the votes to pass whatever they want.
The question is whether they will pave the way for a Democratic revival.
Yes, McCrory looks strong today. And, yes, the Republicans artfully and ruthless gerrymandered the districts.
But public opinion is a powerful thing. And politics is an unpredictable thing.
Last week, Senator Josh Stein of Raleigh spelled out the Democratic response in a speech to NC FREE.
Noting that the personal income tax generates half of the state’s revenue, or $10 billion, he said:
“If the legislature abolishes, or even cuts in half, the personal income tax, either way, the resulting state sales tax rate required to replace that revenue would be the highest in the nation….
“To pay for the elimination of the personal income tax, the amount of taxes paid by the bottom half would go up whereas the amount paid by the top half would go down, with the greatest savings reserved for the top 1 percent….
“All you have to do is ask yourself whether you believe that the General Assembly (or any other representative body for that matter) would have the stomach to impose $5-10 billion in new taxes to offset the income tax cuts in order to make the plan revenue neutral.”
What might happen instead, Stein said, is “the further defunding of public education” – preschool, public school and the university system.
A similar message worked well for President Obama this year. And Romney wasn’t proposing to raise sales taxes or slash education.
Given gerrymandering, GOP legislators might survive politically. Unhappy voters’ only recourse would be to elect a new Governor in four years.