Senate passes bill to let voters decide whether to cap state income tax

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
Senate leader Phil Berger speaks during a press conference with Sens. Jerry Tillman

RALEIGH — N.C. Senate lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment Wednesday that caps the amount that the state can raise income taxes. If the bill becomes law, voters will consider a constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot to lower the maximum personal income tax rate in North Carolina from 10 percent to 5.5 percent. Senate Bill 75 was sponsored by the chairs of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Randolph), Sen. Tommy Tucker (R-Union) and Sen. Andrew Brock (R-Davie). “North Carolina suffered from the some of the highest taxes in the Southeast during Gov. Roy Cooper’s days in the General Assembly, and since he says he doesn’t want to raise taxes, he should enthusiastically support this proposal,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). “But if not, it will reinforce why this amendment is needed to keep spendthrift politicians from returning to the days of high taxes and multi-billion dollar deficits.” During the campaign debates of the gubernatorial election, Cooper — then the state’s attorney general — said he did not want to roll back the recent years of income tax cuts.According to the Tax Foundation the Marginal Individual Income Tax rate is highest in California, with a 13.3 percent rate, followed by Oregon with 9.9 percent and Minnesota with 9.8 percent. Florida, Texas, Wyoming, Nevada, South Dakota and Washington have a 0 percent individual tax rate. N.C. currently has a 5.5 flat income tax rate, having dropped from 5.75 on Jan. 1, 2017, as part of the Republican-led legislature’s plan to incrementally drop taxes as economic benchmarks are met.The bill passed almost along party lines, Republicans in favor and Democrats against it. However, two Democrats, Sen. Ben Clark (D-Cumberland) and Sen. Joel Ford (D-Mecklenburg), voted in favor of putting the income tax cap to voters, while Republican Sen. Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) voted against it.