Opponents call it Marxism. The Robin Hood plan. Governor McCrory calls it the Tax Increase, Redistribution, and Spending Act. Proponents named it the Tax Fairness Act. Sen. Tommy Tucker of Union County says it’s the Tax Reclamation Act because it will allow folks to reclaim all the taxes they’re paying to Charlotte.

Whatever you call it, McCrory has vowed that any hint of it in the state budget will meet with his veto. That’s powerful language. What’s more, a veto would likely be sustained because the State House appears just as unenthusiastic about the sales tax plan. McCrory’s threat means that even a substantially modified or watered down sales tax redistribution plan could be a deal-breaker.

The governor’s strong language might be a reaction to Sen. Tom Apodaca’s remark that McCrory “doesn’t play much of a role in anything.” But truth be told, opponents of the sales tax plan probably don’t need the governor. Opposition in the House is probably sufficient enough to scuttle the Senate plan, at least the version inserted into the Senate budget. (Though it seems at least House Rules Chairman David Lewis is supportive.)

Sen. Harry Brown (R-Jacksonville), the leading proponent of the plan, nonetheless directed his criticism at the governor, calling him “tone deaf” and also “I can’t figure out if Pat thinks he is the governor of Charlotte or the mayor of North Carolina.” Brown is just one of a number of Republicans who think McCrory favors large urban centers over the rural parts of the state. (Such a perception, incidentally, helped sink McCrory’s 2008 bid for governor against Bev Perdue.)

McCrory disputes the criticism that he’s relatively unconcerned about rural areas. If the Senate wants to help out the rural counties, he says, they should pass his “NC Competes” plan, which will benefit all parts of the state. Right now the fact that so much incentive money is going to urban counties is a real sticking point with the upper chamber.

There will be a lot of drama in the budget negotiations. The debate over the Senate’s sales tax plan will be one of its more interesting aspects. We’ll see if the chambers are able to come up with some kind of compromise – and whether McCrory might have to follow through with his threat.


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