The Transylvania Times -

Republicans Oppose Three Amendments

 

October 15, 2018



There are six proposed state constitutional amendments, the most at any one time in modern history, on this year’s ballot. Although the Republican-led General Assembly decided to put the amendments on the ballot, Republicans at the state and local levels have announced their opposition to three of the six amendments.

One of the amendments has to do with removing the governor’s power to unilaterally fill empty judicial seats. For decades, the governor has had the authority to fill judicial seats that have become vacant due to retirement or death. If the amendment passes, the General Assembly would provide two nominees from which the governor could choose to fill a judicial vacancy. By restricting the governor’s choice to just two nominees, the General Assembly is, in effect, controlling who becomes a judge.

Several prominent Republicans oppose this amendment because they view it as blatant power grab to shift more power to a handful of people in the General Assembly. Former Republican governors Pat McCrory and Jim Martin and former Republican Chief Justices Rhoda Billings and I. Beverly Lake, as well as a few Republicans in the General Assembly, publicly oppose this amendment.

The second amendment would strip the governor’s authority to appoint board members to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement. It would also reduce the number from nine members to eight, with each party having four members on the board. The latter would only create gridlock, making the board completely ineffective. An ineffective Ethics Enforcement board would lead to more corruption at the state level.

As with the first amendment mentioned above, many see this as another power grab by the General Assembly.

“We are totally opposed to both of them. It’s still a taking of control over appointments that are executive responsibilities to make,” said Martin. “It’s not about partisan politics. It’s about power politics, and it must be stopped.”

The third amendment to which many Republicans at the county level and some at the state level oppose is the amendment to place a maximum cap on the income tax at 7 percent. The current cap is 10 percent, but the tax rate being assessed now is 5.49 percent.

Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Republican from Henderson County, wrote on his website that he is “not voting for” the amendment to cap the maximum tax rate at 7 percent.

Last month, the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners, which is comprised entirely of Republicans, passed a legislative proposal to be sent to the N.C. Association of County Commisisoners to repeal the state income tax cap. They, like many other county officials across the state, realize that if the rate is capped at 7 percent, more of the tax burden will be shifted to the counties. In the past several years, state expenditures for education have not kept pace with inflation and the growth in student population. As a result, many counties have had to compensate for those decreases in state revenue by raising property taxes. According to the North Carolina Justice Center, since the 2012-13 fiscal year, 76 of the state’s 100 counties have raised their property tax rates.

There are also concerns that when natural disasters, such as Hurricane Florence strike, the state would be unable to raise the income tax rate to help individuals and localities recover from the disaster. As of last week, there were still some 130 public schools serving 90,000 students that had not reopened due to damage from Florence. That does not include all of the municipal and county buildings, fire departments, hospitals, etc. that also have been closed or greatly damaged due to the storm. The economy of many of these communities has been decimated. They cannot afford to rebuild on their own; they need the state’s help.

The three amendments some Republicans oppose would weaken the governor, who is elected statewide and place more power in the hands of a few individuals elected by less than 100,000 people, as well as shift more of the tax burden to county and local governments, many of which find their budgets already stretched to their limits.

 
 

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