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McCrory Lashes Out On Sales Tax And Magistrate Bills

Courtesy of the governor's Office

In an hour-long interview with WFAE’s Charlotte Talks Monday, Governor Pat McCrory lashed out at Republican lawmakers in Raleigh for what he sees as bad and misguided legislation. This includes a proposal to redistribute sales tax and what’s become known as ‘The Magistrate Bill.’

Governor McCrory began cordially enough, saying a proposal in the state Senate to redistribute sales tax revenues away from richer, urban counties, like Mecklenburg and ship them to poor, rural counties throughout the state was “just part of the messy process of democracy.”

The governor has already come out against the bill. But Monday, his remarks were particularly strong. "It’s a poorly thought out bill," he said, "They haven’t done the math and the math doesn’t add up."

McCrory even borrowed a line from the other side of the political aisle. "It’s classic class warfare. You usually hear that from the Democrats and it's coming from more conservative Republicans."

And the cost of that class warfare, McCrory warned, would be tax increases for millions of North Carolinians. "Travel and tourism areas and large cities are going to have to tax their citizens in order to make up that incredible lost revenue. And I’m totally opposed to that proposal."

When host Mike Collins brought up criticism of proposals the governor supports, like cuts to the tax rates individuals and corporations pay to the state, McCrory was having none of it.

MC: Some people would say that suddenly we can’t afford anything. You cut taxes and now we can’t afford anything. We can’t afford schools, we can’t afford this, we can’t afford that. PM: That’s not happening. In fact our revenue stream is coming in pretty good. Now we did anticipate somewhat of a revenue deficit because I had to make a compromise. But the fact is the economy is recovering and we’re getting more money in than we ever anticipated.

That’s not true. North Carolina’s economy is improving, however, earlier this month, the legislature’s Fiscal Research Division found state revenue was about $150 million below target.

Credit Screen grab of NCSL.org
Chart of voter ID laws on the National Conference of State Legislatures website.

McCrory also deflected criticism of other policies he’s signed off on by taking issue with the word conservative. "For example," he said, "voter I.D. to me is not a conservative bill. It’s a common sense bill that is in most states in America. But they say, oh, I’m a radical because we’re going to require a voter ID to vote."

Here the governor is partially correct. Data from the National Conference of State Legislatures show 34 states have passed some form of voter ID requirement. But only seven are as strict as those that will take effect in North Carolina next year.

But perhaps the most interesting exchange of the interview centered on recent anti-discrimination measures.  The question was posed by a caller who began with the fact that as mayor, McCrory never signed a letter of welcome for organizers of Charlotte’s annual Pride parade, or a human rights conference. Then came this, "Now as governor are you looking forward to signing the religious freedom bill to make sure gays and lesbians feel even less welcome in our state?"

That bill is now before both the state House and Senate and it’s similar to the measure recently signed into law in Indiana. It would allow businesses to refuse service to anyone on religious grounds. The bill is seen as an escape clause for businesses who don’t want to have any part in same sex marriages.

McCrory said he was against that bill. But then also chided activists on both sides and called into question a recent failed proposal to extend Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance to include LGBT people. "You know the left here brought up transgender bathrooms which is a totally ridiculous argument. And on the right, I think some of the items that are in the so called religious freedom bill also make no sense."

The cover of George Orwell's book 1984

Because, the governor said, it deals with someone’s motivation. Discrimination and hate, in essence, are a thought, not an action, McCrory argued. To regulate that would be tantamount to the thought police envisioned by writer George Orwell:

PM: "I guess the question is what they think? How do we know what they think? In fact I disagree with laws in the criminal justice books about what people are thinking will determine their sentence. It’s the crime that made a difference. Not what they were thinking when they committed the crime."

McCrory also said he would refuse to sign into law a proposal to allow state magistrates to opt out of same sex marriages on religious grounds, "because I don’t think you should have an exception or a carve out when you swore an oath to the constitution of North Carolina or to the constitution of the United States of America."

You can hear the full Charlotte Talks interview here.

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.