RALEIGH — Nine of North Carolina’s 45 incoming freshman state legislators have signed a pledge to “oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes,” a move in line with their campaign promise to fix the state’s fiscal hole without resorting to tax hikes.
The Tar Heel State could face a budget deficit as high as $4 billion in 2011, partly due to a temporary 1-cent sales tax increase set to expire next year. Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue has shied away from tax increases and instead asked cabinet-level agencies to submit plans for 5 percent, 10 percent, and 15 percent cuts to their budgets.
Leaders of the newly elected Republican majority — holding a 68-52 advantage in the House and 31-19 in the Senate — say tax increases are off the table.
“We need to balance the budget without extending those so-called temporary tax rates, because we’ve got to get more competitive with other states,” said Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam, a Republican from Wake County a leading contender for the post of House Speaker.
Some of the GOP’s freshman foot soldiers have already put that promise in writing. Each year, Americans for Tax Reform, a taxpayer advocacy group in Washington, D.C., asks state and federal lawmakers to sign its Taxpayer Protection Pledge (PDF). By signing the pledge, elected officials promise their constituents they will oppose raising taxes.
The following newly elected members of the General Assembly, all Republicans, have signed the pledge:
• Louis Pate (Senate District 5)
• Wesley Meredith (Senate District 19)
• Kathy Harrington (Senate District 43)
• Dan Soucek (Senate District 45)
• Bill Cook (House District 6)
• Stan Larson (House District 9)
• Jeff Collins (House District 25)
• Harry Warren (House District 77)
• Rayne Brown (House District 81)
Jackie Warner, Republican candidate in House District 45, also has signed the pledge. Warner trails incumbent Democrat Rick Glazier of Fayetteville by 48 votes. A recount is set to begin Wednesday.
At the federal level, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina has signed the pledge. So have five members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation — Reps. Walter B. Jones, R-3rd; Virginia Foxx, R-5th; Howard Coble, R-6th; Sue Myrick, R-9th; and Patrick McHenry, R-10th.
Republican Renee Ellmers also has signed the pledge. Unless a recount changes the results, Ellmers will represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District in the new Congress.
Taken as a whole, the incoming Congress will be far more tax-cut friendly than the last one. In the previous 111th Congress, 174 representatives and 34 senators signed the pledge, compared to 235 representatives and 41 senators in the 112th.
“Every single new House member is a pledge signer with one exception,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Otherwise, everyone who replaced a Republican was a pledge taker and everyone who beat a Democrat was a pledge taker.”
David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal. Associate Editor Anthony Greco contributed reporting to this story.