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Business leaders should stand against tax cap

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President and CEO of the North Carolina Chamber Lew Ebert speaks with a guest after speaking to business leaders in Greenville.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Those who run North Carolina’s largest and most successful businesses know they need flexibility to deal with an uncertain future. Placing artificial limits on revenue sources is bad business, irresponsible and poor management.

That is why it is curious that two of the state’s business leadership groups – the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and BEST NC – have been silent when it comes to a proposed state Constitutional amendment that would cap the income tax rate at 5.5 percent.

Let’s be clear off the bat. We are not talking about raising or lowering anyone’s income taxes.

What this is about is making sure that those who run the state — the governor and the legislature — have all the revenue streams necessary to responsibly meet the needs of the state and its people.

The board members of the N.C. Chamber of Commerce and BEST NC know this. They are also very well aware of the damage done in the state of Colorado when a similar amendment was passed. Still, they remain silent.

But really, this is no surprise.

These business leaders sold their silence in return for a remarkably large corporate income tax-cut package. In return, they have been cowed and mute as these legislative leaders have imposed their narrow ideology and attacked the critical institutions of state government regardless of the consequences.

The results of the N.C. Chamber’s going AWOL are significant: under-funding public schools; failing to expand Medicaid to more than a half-million citizens without health coverage; missing opportunities to narrow the state’s growing rural-urban divide; attacking the independence and integrity of the state’s judicial system; neglecting the environment, diminishing concern for the quality of life; exploiting LGBT citizens; ignoring public safety needs.

BEST NC (Business for Educational Success and Transformation in North Carolina) was formed out of the Chamber’s lack of focus on public education. Amid its silence: public education funding is threatened as cities are allowed to create and fund their own charter schools; federal money meant to boost early childhood education is shifted to other needs; increased security for public schools is neglected; much needed money for additional school nurses, counselors and psychologists isn’t available; teacher and school administrator pay lags; and there continues to be an unconscionable lack of transparency and accountability for a private school voucher program that allows money to go to schools that discriminate in admissions.

Prior to Lew Ebert’s arrival to head the Chamber, it had been North Carolina’s business community that could be relied upon to be a moderating force that kept the legislature from moving too far to the left or right. It was a forceful and effective advocate for a quality education system and the resources to fund it.

Now, rather than standing up for students and public education, these business leaders are compliant in the legislators’ constitutional amendment.

Make no mistake this amendment will harm the state’s financial health — including public education — in the future.

These business leaders don’t want to challenge the leadership, they say, because they want a place “at the table.” They fear angering Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore and getting “shut out of the process.”

The Chamber and BEST NC need to disengage their “mute button.”

It is time to get some backbone and take a stand. Our state needs your leadership.

Tell the General Assembly the proposed State Constitutional amendment is unnecessary, wrong, bad business and will hurt North Carolina’s future.

Tell legislators if they persist in passing it, your organizations will vigorously campaign against it in the fall election.

Capitol Broadcasting Company of Raleigh

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