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Senate Changes County Sales Tax Bill; Still Kills Meck County Vote

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On Monday night the Senate Finance Committee debated county sales taxes again.

That bill was changed but not in a way that would keep a planned Mecklenburg county vote alive.

Generally, if you buy something in Mecklenburg county, you currently pay 7.25 percent in sales tax. The majority of that tax goes to the state, but 2.5 percent goes to the county.

The original senate proposal capped the sales tax rate every county could charge at 2.5 percent. That original senate plan passed the finance committee unanimously last Wednesday.

So what was the big change?  It comes down to two words: either, or.

The plan was amended to allow a bit more flexibility in how the counties could use the added sales tax revenue. Originally, it had to all be used for either education or transportation.

Senator Bob Rucho says now counties could put some of the money towards general use, which means pretty much anything. "It does give the counties an opportunity to meet their priorities based on what their county commissioners feel is necessary."

Unless you’re from Rucho’s home district of Mecklenburg County. Where in a contentious vote last month, county commissioners gave voters the choice of adding .25 percent to that local rate to be used for teacher raises, libraries and as a funding source for struggling museums and other arts and science centers in the area.

The amended bill put forward last month still includes the provision that kills that vote. As Senator Rick Gunn said, "This will still have a 2.5 percent cap."

For every county except Wake and Orange, they’re grandfathered in and would be allowed to go over that cap.   

Mecklenburg would not.

So this November’ s referendum may all be for naught.

As for the senate plan, that vote is in question, too. The original bill was then scheduled for a vote by the full senate on Monday. Then it was taken off the calendar. Then put back on. Then referred back to committee.

The committee now says they will vote on the amended proposal Tuesday or possibly Wednesday.

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