The People of North Carolina: The Ultimate Special-Interest Group

Thank heavens Bob Rucho's tax plan is dead — but keep the lid on that coffin
N.C. Senate

Along with “freedom,” “terrorist,” and “idea,” “special-interest group” is one of the most misused and meaningless terms in the American political glossary.

It’s supposed to mean a small group of people who influence lawmakers on behalf of particular industries, causes, or movements; as that encompasses pretty much anyone with political clout, and as legislatures are designed to respond to such pressure, the pejorative term “special-interest group” effectively means a group of people advocating for something you don’t like. (When it’s something you do like, you refer to the special-interest group as “the citizens of this great state.”)

So how warped is Matthews’s own Sen. Bob Rucho’s tax plan — one, thankfully, that Gov. Pat and legislators with modicums of sense in their heads have rejected? His definition of “special-interest group” in this case actually does mean the citizens of this great state:

Rucho’s resignation came just days after Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger unveiled a new tax plan that walked back several provisions in Rucho’s plan, including a proposal to add a state sales tax to food and prescription medicine, and expand the sales tax to numerous services.

Rucho said Thursday morning that he thought a legislative meeting earlier this year with economists showed “a clear pathway” to tax reform, which his bill reflected.

“There just seemed to be a lot of resistance from a lot of special-interest groups that would rather have loopholes than fair tax policy,” Rucho said.

In his resignation letter to Berger, Rucho wrote: “It’s a huge disappointment that the Governor and the Speaker of the House did not provide the leadership or have the political backbone to fight the special-interest groups … ”

He wanted to hike the sales tax on food and medicine, for God’s sake! It’s not like the House or Senate plans McCrory has said he prefers are anything marvelous. They amount to standard-issue Republican cuts to corporate and personal income taxes, as Rob Christensen explains in the N&O — this after a McCrory campaign vow to reform the state tax code.

Never mind. If Rucho’s plan was the reform option, then let’s hear it for the status quo and broken campaign promises.

The only problem is that Rucho, and this batch of legislators, will be around for a while. (Looking at you, Matthews, you “bedroom community,” you.) This will be back, even if Rucho quits his committee assignments in one fit of pique or another.

It may not get adopted wholesale. But there’s enough momentum behind the idea of abolishing the state income tax for bits and pieces to worm their way into some of Art Pope’s budgets. If they can rig it to make it look less repugnant to the business community and old white people — some overlap there, obviously — they’ll adopt it next budget cycle.

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest