Pilot Light: Panel Studies Tax Overhaul
The complexity of North Carolina's tax structure adds to the frustration of legislators studying a prospective overhaul.
State Sen. Harris Blake is a member of the joint House-Senate committee tackling this difficult assignment. Blake was appointed to the special panel because of his status as a member of the Senate Finance Committee.
"It is very convoluted and very confusing," Blake said after the committee's first meeting Tuesday.
And he was just talking about the sales tax setup.
Blake said the first meeting was largely devoted to a staff overview of the sales tax system, what is taxed, how much and exemptions. Attention was also directed to the tricky business of collecting taxes on eligible goods and services sold through the Internet.
The overview also included tax breaks offered as incentives to new industries.
HOW? -- "How in the world did we get to this point?" Blake asked.
Blake, a Pinehurst Republican, said the sales tax system has numerous exemptions with differing rates for different things.
"It's amazing. I don't know how people keep it straight," he said.
Blake said the legislature needs "to look down the road about two years and see where we will be on the revenue side." He recalls that in order to balance a budget in excess of $20 billion this year, it was necessary to raise some taxes and to use part of the federal stimulus money, neither of which he approved.
The panel is expected to hold three or four more meetings. The schedule has not been developed in advance, but the second session will probably be called next week.
SEVEN LAKES -- Seven Lakes Republicans will hold a precinct meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Seven Lakes fire station.
In addition to the election of officers, the precinct will discuss the upcoming convention and will hear from Bill Thurman, vice chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. As precinct liaison, Thurman coordinates all precinct chairs and other officers to encourage attendance at quarterly meetings to discuss grassroots training and efforts toward electing GOP candidates in 2010.
RAND -- State Sen. Tony Rand is leaving the legislature to head the state parole system.
The Cumberland County Democrat is Senate president pro tem and has served in the Senate for 22 years.
"Sen. Rand served the people of Cumberland County and the state with great distinction in the Senate and he will continue to do so as a member of the parole board," said House Speaker Joe Hackney in a statement released late Wednesday. "He has dedicated many years of his life to making North Carolina better, most especially by working to provide quality and affordable higher education to all."
"Sen. Rand has had a long and distinguished career in the North Carolina Senate and maintained a deep respect for Senate traditions," said Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger of Rockingham County. "While he and I have often disagreed on matters of policy, he was always someone who kept his word. Given the dramatic leftward drift of the State Senate Democratic Caucus, Sen. Rand increasingly found his views at odds with his more liberal Democratic colleagues and that may have led to this decision."
An attorney and former public prosecutor, the 70-year-old Rand has been appointed by Gov. Bev Perdue to head the Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission.
HEALTH CARE -- Congress-man Larry Kissell of neighboring 8th District is defecting from his Democratic colleagues by saying no to the latest health-care bill rolled out in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In a news release this week, Kissell announced that he plans to vote against the bill because of proposed cuts in Medicare benefits.
"From the day I announced my candidacy for this office, I promised to protect Medicare," the Montgomery County Democrat said. "I gave my word I wouldn't cut it and I intend to keep that promise to the citizens of the 8th District and the senior citizens of this nation. While I believe comprehensive health care and insurance reform is necessary, I cannot vote for HR 3962 in its current form, which cuts $399 million from Medicare."
Congressman Howard Coble, the Republican representing the 6th District, had already announced his intention to oppose the bill. On Tuesday he took to the House floor to express his views.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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