News: Quick Takes

Senate gives amendment cutting top income tax rate another try

State Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, has a reputation for being plain-spoken. After a Senate bill that included a constitutional cap on the income tax rate failed to get a hearing in the House last year, he issued a typical, unvarnished analysis.

“The House ran out of time, and maybe they ran out of nerve,” Tillman said at the time, predicting the measure would be back this year.

On Tuesday, he made good on that forecast. He joined fellow Finance Committee co-chairmen Sens. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, and Tommy Tucker, R-Union, in filing Senate Bill 75. The legislation calls for a constitutional amendment capping the income tax rate at 5.5 percent, the same as last year’s attempt. The current rate is 5.499 percent, and the constitution limits the top rate to 10 percent.

If passed by a three-fifths margin in both houses of the General Assembly, the bill would be submitted by referendum to voters for the Nov. 6, 2018, general election. If voters approve the measure, it could take effect as early as Jan. 1, 2019.

If last year’s vote is any gauge, the bill should not have difficulty passing the Senate. It was approved by a 31-18 vote in that chamber last year. It likely would face a stiffer challenge in the House.

“This is complete news to me, and I don’t know anything about it,” said state Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, senior chairman of the House Finance Committee, and vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“I don’t know that we’ll even take it up in caucus until it gets over here, so at this point I would hesitate to handicap” its chances of passage, Brawley said.

“I know that last session there was not a lot of support for it in the caucus, but I haven’t tried to whip votes or anything on it with the new session,” he said, adding he has no idea if the current group of House members has any more interest than last year’s in passing the bill.