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Politics

NC State Senator Harry Brown Calls In Rural Reinforcements To Pitch Sales Tax Changes

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Just how North Carolina’s sales tax revenue will be distributed remains an open question, and a major stumbling block for House and Senate negotiators trying to compromise on a budget. The Senate budget calls for it to be distributed by population across the state. The House budget wants it to stay as is, where 75 percent of the sales tax stays in the county where the purchase was made.

Tuesday, a group representing rural counties made their case as to why they should get a bigger piece of the sales tax pie.

As he stood at the podium in the General Assembly’s press conference room, State Senator Harry Brown was on familiar turf. He was again pitching more sales tax money to go to the state’s rural counties. "Unfortunately," he said, "I think a lot of the attention given to this bill has been focused on the exaggerated and the extreme." Those would be, in Brown's view, the affects on the budgets of urban counties. So this time Brown brought rural reinforcements. Some talked of the cash flight from their counties. "The closest chain food store from the middle of the county is about 30 minutes or 40 minutes away," Randolph Latimore told the group. He is the Superintendent of Hyde County Schools. And, granted, the middle of the county is a lake. Still, Latimore said, "Those dollars that the citizens of Hyde county take out to go other places to purchase goods and services are lost dollars to Hyde county."

Harnett County Chairman Jim Burgin focused on a dollar figure. "In 2014, Harnett county lost $244,458,663 in potential retail spending on residents shopping and dining outside of our county." Although he didn’t specify how he got that figure, he did say how much the county which sits between Raleigh and Fayetteville was out. "That equals more than 5 and a half million dollars in lost sales tax dollars."

Money that could help lure businesses to the area or go to schools. It's not clear when the House and Senate will begin budget negotiations. But hours after the press conference, Governor Pat McCrory released a statement saying he will veto any bill which changes how sales taxes are distributed in the state.