Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Perdue pushing N.C. tax amnesty? Kinda

Good morning. Welcome to O-Pinion, the Observer editorial board's blog of commentary and public discussion. I'm associate editor Fannie Flono, your host today.

Before we get to "tax amnesty," let's talk about the big political news in the Carolinas: the upcoming South Carolina GOP primary where the remaining Republican candidates are still battling it out.

An article in the conservative Weekly Standard has an intriguing take on why "A Gingrich Win Could Benefit Everyone - including Romney. In it Jeffrey H. Anderson contends that if Newt Gingrich wins, it will provide an opportunity for more substantive debate from the Republicans so the party can get its true message out on issues. "Romney should actually welcome additional chances to hone his skills," Anderson said. "After all, if he isn’t confident that he can beat Newt Gingrich without a Mike Tyson-style early round knockout — secured mostly through a huge advantage in cash and a resulting barrage of negative advertising in Iowa — then what chance does he really have of beating Obama?" All right. Let's keep those gloves on.

The Standard also had an interesting story dissecting new polls showing President Barack Obama's approval ratings ticking up. In a blog piece called "Morning Jay: What to Make of Obama's Approval Bounce?" Jay Costa attributes the change to "marginal Democrats" coming back to the Obama fold.

On the liberal side, the Huffington Post takes on Gingrich for continuing at Monday's S.C. debate in Myrtle Beach "to promote his controversial strategy to fight both child poverty and the jobs crisis." That plan being to hire poor children to be janitors in schools. Lila Shapiro writes that "the idea captures Gingrich's spin on two popular right-wing economic claims: Union workers are overpaid and the poor simply need to work harder to improve their lives." She then debunks his contention, saying he got facts wrong. She says he incorrectly said that an entry-level janitor gets paid twice as much as an entry-level teacher. Not only do Gingrich's calculations assume janitors earn much more than they actually do, his theory is deeply flawed, and would likely harm impoverished communities, not help them, she said researchers say.

Here in North Carolina, the battle is at the state level with Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue taking on Republicans by publicly arguing that they should restore part of state sales tax the Republican-controlled legislature let expire last year. Republican Senate leader Phil Berger said predictably that the proposal was "dead on arrival in the General Assembly."
But we wonder what Repubs think about this: Perdue announced today that the North Carolina Department of Revenue is launching the Individual Income Tax Debt Payment Program to help individuals catch up on unpaid taxes.

According to a press release, "This time-limited program will help individuals resolve unpaid taxes and get back on their feet financially by waiving certain penalties and fees and offering payment plan options. Participating taxpayers can avoid forced collections such as garnishments, liens, and levies.

This sounds like somewhat like a back-door tax amnesty program. We said last May that N.C. lawmakers and the governor should both agree to a tax amnesty plan to bring in money to state coffers. At the time, GOP Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County was sponsoring a bill. Moffitt said then his bill could bring in as much as $200 million during a grace period between July 1 and June 30, 2012. The bill would have allowed taxpayers in arrears to settle their accounts by paying all of their taxes plus half the interest. The state, in turn, would drop penalties and criminal charges.

The bill got nowhere but Moffitt said it was a good one because North Carolina shouldn't impose penalties on tax delinquents at a time when many people can't find a job."There is no reason for the state to rub salt into people's wounds, " he said.
In announcing her plan today, Perdue said: "This is exactly the type of program we need to help our fellow North Carolinians down the path to economic recovery. We are making it easier for our citizens to work with state government.”

Are Republicans and Democrats, gasp, on the same page?


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