News: CJ Exclusives

Tillis, Berger Challenge Perdue to Public Debate on Tax Hikes

Republican leaders want to debate governor on key election issue in 2012

Republican leaders in the General Assembly have challenged Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue to a public debate on her proposal to restore three-fourths of a 1-cent sales tax increase.

“Governor, let’s have a joint appearance, a debate, and let’s give the people of North Carolina the opportunity to hear you articulate rationale for why increasing taxes is the right thing to do at this time,” said Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement released shortly after the press conference, House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, echoed Berger’s call for a debate.

“The governor has a very different vision of the role of government than do Sen. Berger and I, and the citizens of this state deserve an opportunity to clearly see the difference. I look forward to the opportunity to put those differences on display,” Tillis said.

The challenge comes a week after Perdue announced that she would include a sales tax increase in her proposed budget for the new fiscal year. She wants to devote the additional funds to public schools.

In a YouTube video released Friday, Perdue stumped for the new taxes and criticized the GOP-controlled General Assembly for allowing the 1-cent sales tax increase to sunset last year.

“As I said a year ago, the General Assembly has needlessly made drastic cuts that will permanently affect our children and the future of this great state,” Perdue said. “They did it to eliminate one thin cent — one copper penny — from the state’s sales tax. As we can see so clearly today, this was a wrong choice for North Carolina.”

Perdue’s press secretary, Chris Mackey, accused Republicans of orchestrating “cheap stunts” to distract attention from damage to public schools.

“Rather than playing useless political games, [Republicans] should get to work and find a way to reverse the damage they’ve caused, and to prevent the even deeper cuts that are coming next year,” Mackey said.

David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.

[Editor’s note: This story has been updated with Chris Mackey’s response.]