by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
Remember when Gov. Roy Cooper equated tax breaks for big business with ritual sacrifice? I’m sure you do; it was in his 2017 State of the State address:
We cannot sacrifice education at the altar of even more corporate tax cuts or giveaways that are mostly for the wealthiest.
Tyler Dukes of WRAL remembers, and he wanted to know just how much of a sacrifice the governor and his administration were willing to make. He still wants to know, because so far they’re not answering, and neither are Wake County officials:
In response to multiple requests from WRAL News – some shortly after the announcement and others over the past six months – both Wake County and Commerce have repeatedly declined to provide a single page of records, which would detail just how much public money and other taxpayer-funded perks state and local officials offered the company to select the Tar Heel State.
Officials at the Commerce Department and the office of Gov. Roy Cooper, who oversees the agency, have so far refused to explain their reasoning for the secrecy – secrecy some experts say doesn’t stand up to legal scrutiny.
“The spirit of the law in this particular provision is that once the facts clearly indicate that business has made a determination, it’s no longer up for debate,” said Brooks Fuller, a professor of media law at Elon University and director of the N.C. Open Government Coalition. “The mechanism has been triggered for the disclosure of the information.”
I hope Dukes keeps up the pressure. Cooper’s glaring hypocrisy isn’t the issue; this utter lack of transparency is very troubling. Public officials cannot conduct themselves as if they aren’t accountable to the people, not in a free state.
The business press knows Cooper’s position on corporate tax breaks:
it’s just for cronies, not for everyone
As for Wake County, commissioners ought to be able to own up to whatever incentives they were offering. Reportedly just one of those was 30 years of property tax abatements.
That’s an entire mortgage term for regular Wake County residents. What do they get from county commissioners for living, working, and spending money in the county? Five years in a row (so far) of property-tax hikes, with this year’s being the worst (over 10 percent).
As Joe Coletti points out, county tax collections are 60 percent higher than they were in 2014.