A top legislative architect of the General Assembly’s tax reform efforts said Wednesday that both House and Senate leaders are at the negotiating table trying to stitch together a compromise plan in the coming days.
“I just think that it’s very positive that we all remain united in the goal that we will get enough revenue raised to support the operation of the state, but no more, so that people can keep as much of the money that they earn that they possibly can,” said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, chairman of the House Finance Committee and a chief author of the House tax reform package.
Lewis, however, stopped short of predicting that leaders of both chambers would reach an agreement on tax reform.
“I feel confident that no stone will be left unturned in the effort to get a tax reform package,” Lewis said. “If for some reason we don’t soon succeed, I think you will see the current tax package [existing law] remain in place and us move on to the budget.”
Lawmakers are into the second week of the new fiscal year and state government is operating on temporary budget authority through the end of July.
Earlier in the week, GOP Gov. Pat McCrory said he and legislative leaders were “very close to possibly getting tax reform done.”
McCrory also said that he wanted to make sure that whatever tax reform package came out of the General Assembly included enough revenues to fund the basic operations of state government.
Legislative fiscal analysts say the most recent Senate tax reform plan would bring in $962.9 million a year less than the current tax code during the final years of the five-year budget projection. Over the same period, the House plan would bring in $570.9 million a year less than the current tax code.
GOP legislative leaders have said that anticipated growth in the state’s economy would allow sufficient revenues to fund the state’s budget while enacting the tax cuts.
McCrory, however, said he refused to accept those growth projections, particularly in the latter years.
Lewis said Wednesday there was a bit of give and take going on between the legislative negotiators.
“The House is holding true to many of the principles in its bill and the Senate is holding true to those that are most important to it,” Lewis said. “This is the legislative process. It just takes awhile.”
Lewis said he would like to give a definite timeframe under which they’d reach an agreement, but he said he couldn’t.
“I just don’t know,” Lewis said.
Lewis noted, though, that if negotiators don’t reach a consensus on tax reform soon, they’ll put that issue aside and concentrate on passing the state’s budget.
Lewis said that both House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, want to get a new, two-year budget passed by the end of the month. They don’t want to have to extend the temporary budget operating authority past the end of the month, he said.
Barry Smith (@Barry_Smith) is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.