Eleven N.C. counties will ask voters in November to let them impose a new, quarter-cent sales tax. The N.C. legislature in 2007 gave counties a blanket to add the tax if county voters OK'd it. In a 12th county, Watauga County (home of Boone) voters yesterday rejected the idea, apparently with some help from the John Locke Foundation.
While quarter-cent sales tax votes have had mixed results for the last three years, interestingly, seven of nine counties that have already voted this year passed it. (In addition to Watauga, Davie County voters in February, nixed it.) Here's a rundown from the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.
The measures had a generally mixed record in 2007 and early in 2008. None of the ones on the ballot in November 2008 passed – remember, the financial world had just collapsed.
Harnett County (home to Lillington - corrected 1:51 p.m.) is even going for a third try this November. Well, hey, the third time (last May) was the charm for Onslow County (home to Jacksonville. N.C.).
The 2007 legislation also offered counties the option to impose a land transfer tax – paid when a home is sold – if voters OK it. Of course, the state's Realtors erupted like Mount St. Helens when that one passed the legislature. A number of counties put it on the ballot right away, without taking time to build community support. Not surprisingly, given the hot opposition from Realtors and developers, none of the land transfer tax measures to date has passed.
Mecklenburg hasn't opted to try either one, though it has eviscerated its public library system and its county park and recreation budget, and county cuts played a role (state budget cuts did, ) in massive public school teacher and staff layoffs this year and last. Whether the local pols disinclination to put either option on the ballot is a result of sticking a finger into the political winds, or sane tax policy, or is a response to pressure from Realtors, to whom our politicians pay close heed – I'll let you take your pick of those options.
In general, compared to property taxes, sales taxes go down easier with voters, although economists tend to point out that compared to property taxes they're more regressive and less stable. But usually you pay sales taxes in small amounts, so people don't notice them as much as those big propery tax bills.