Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — Mirroring a proposal she made in 2011, Gov. Bev Perdue said Tuesday afternoon that she would recommend restoring three-fourths of a 1-cent sales tax increase in her budget for the new fiscal year.
That drew a reproach from N.C. Rep. Bill Faison, an Orange County Democrat who has become a vocal critic of the first-term governor. Faison claimed that Perdue, who faces a dicey re-election campaign this year, essentially was copycatting his own proposal.
“While the governor falls further behind the likely GOP opponent, she has finally decided to endorse a solid plan, and one I proposed months ago,” Faison said in a statement. “I could have used her help in September on this issue as I tried to have it heard in the General Assembly.”
Faison’s plan would restore 70 percent of the 1-cent sales tax increased that expired last summer. But Faison didn’t invent the idea. In her original budget recommendation from last year, Perdue endorsed making permanent three-fourths of the penny sales tax.
The Republican-led legislature allowed the tax increase to sunset. Democrats claim the tax-hike expiration forced draconian cuts to public education, while Republicans say layoffs haven’t been extreme and the private market has benefited from the decreased tax rate.
In a statement released Tuesday, Perdue said she would devote revenue from the tax to public education. “Education has always been part of the fabric of who we are as a people in North Carolina and it’s the key to our future,” she said. “We must stop the deep and unnecessary cuts that are going on in North Carolina’s schools.”
The squabble between the governor and Faison emerged even as new results from a Democratic polling firm found Perdue trailing former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, her likely Republican opponent in the gubernatorial election, 52 percent to 41 percent. Perdue’s approval rating also dipped to 32 percent, with 51 percent of voters disapproving of her.
Faison drew fire from Democrats when he suggested that Perdue forgo a second term, although he’s stopped short of announcing a primary challenge. He recently loaned his campaign $500,000 and released a television ad that touts his jobs plan, which includes the sales-tax hike.
Michael Bitzer, associate professor of politics and history at Catawba College in Salisbury, said that Faison could hurt himself with the party establishment if he pushes too hard against Perdue.
“It’s a dangerous sword to be wielding at this point,” Bitzer said.
Republicans, on the other hand, are taking advantage of the infighting, and were quick to pounce on Perdue’s announcement.
“The Democratic primary for governor apparently has devolved into a fight over who can raise the most taxes, spend the most money, and grow the biggest government,” said Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. “Gov. Perdue’s latest tax-hike stunt proves she can’t fix this mess she made.”
Scott Laster, executive director of the Republican Party of North Carolina, suggested that Perdue’s re-election slogan include a call for more taxes. “Gov. Perdue often chooses silence on controversial issues like criminal scandals involving her campaign and administration, but she apparently can’t bite her tongue when the subject matter involves her desire to raise taxes,” he said.
David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.