EDITORIAL: Not Another Vote on Transfer Tax
Colin McKenzie is right in theory about a land transfer tax. He's wrong in seeming to push for another referendum on it so soon.
Chairman McKenzie's fellow members of the Moore County Board of Commissioners seemed dubious when he brought up the subject of scheduling another vote. No wonder. If they went along with him and did so, it would only raise the question: What part of "no!" don't they understand?
McKenzie is right when he says that the land transfer tax would be a lucrative and relatively painless way to haul in additional revenue. He is right that an alternative tax source is far more attractive than relying exclusively on an increase in the property tax to fund the county's multimillion-dollar capital improvement needs.
For the average homeowner selling a house today, the tax would be a one-time deal, and a good sales point is the county's relatively modest tax rate. After all, homeowners pay property taxes every year, but the LTT is paid only when the deed changes hands. And the LTT would not apply to some of the more sensitive pockets of the population, such as those inheriting property.
McKenzie also has a point when he notes that groups representing contractors and real estate interests unfairly depicted the LTT as a "home tax" and scared people into believing that it would ruin the economy. And he may be right in the assertion that at least one lobbying group illegally used membership fees to pay for the negative political campaign.
But schedule another referendum so soon? No. That train has left the station.
The voters of Moore County have twice said "no" to an alternative tax. In November they resoundingly defeated the LTT tax, despite an enthusiastic vote in favor of issuing $69.5 million in bonds for capital improvements in the public schools and at Sandhills Community College. Then in May, they turned thumbs down on an additional sales tax.
Some voters may not understand the issues, and they may be swayed by misleading information, but they have spoken loud and clear. Besides, the economy is sluggish at this time, few new jobs are being created, inflation is burdensome, especially with high gasoline prices, and the public is watching pennies. And people tend to be surly when it comes to voting new taxes on themselves.
In short, this is no time to ask for a new tax of any sort. The horse is dead. Don't go on beating it.
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