The Republican Governors Association is running its second TV ad in North Carolina this election. Like the first, it criticizes Democrat Beverly Perdue and the "status quo" in Raleigh.
What the ad says: A narrator speaks while the ad shows a series of black-and-white images: a woman looking out a window, trees with no leaves, men with blank expressions, a Chinese flag. In the bottom right appears a red "status quo" button – a take-off on an ad campaign for office supplies.
Narrator: "North Carolina faces an economic crisis, and for 21 years Bev Perdue has simply pushed the status quo. Perdue presided over $6 billion in new taxes – voted to increase the gas and sales tax. Now North Carolinians have the largest-growing tax burden in the country – the nation's third-worst unemployment growth – 80,000 jobs lost to China. So what's status quo Bev's plan for the future?"
The ad ends with a quote from Perdue during a recent TV debate: "I would do exactly what's been done before."
The background: The ad raises two issues – taxes and jobs – and it argues Perdue will continue existing state policies.
TAXES: Perdue represented the New Bern area in the state legislature from 1987 until 2001. She has since served as lieutenant governor, a position where she presides over the N.C. Senate. She can vote only in the case of a tie, so her role in tax changes since 2001 has been only procedural.
The Republican Governors Association says the "$6 billion in new taxes" figure is the amount raised by new taxes imposed from 2001 through 2006. Almost half of that came from two temporary taxes that lawmakers and Gov. Mike Easley imposed because of a 2001 budget crisis: an extra half-cent sales tax and a new upper-income tax bracket. (In 2007, lawmakers eliminated the upper-income tax bracket and made permanent a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax.) The rest came from more than 60 other tax changes.
Easley and lawmakers have also cut taxes since 2001. In the 1990s, when Perdue was a legislator and a lead budget writer, lawmakers and Gov. Jim Hunt cut or eliminated some taxes.
The RGA cites at least three instances in which Perdue "voted to increase the gas and sales tax": a 1989 law that raised the gas tax about five cents a gallon to pay for road improvements; a 1991 law that raised the gas tax a half cent a gallon to pay for the cleanup of underground storage tanks; and a 1991 law that raised the statewide sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent.
Perdue has also voted for tax cuts, including the elimination of the state sales tax on food in the 1990s.
The RGA says the claim about the "largest-growing tax burden in the country" is based on an April 12, 2007, article from The Tax Foundation in Washington, D.C. The article says "North Carolina's tax burden rank has seen the largest increase of any state since 2000," jumping from the 36th highest state-local tax burden in 2000 to the 19th highest.
The article, though, is based on outmoded methodology. According to the foundation's revised data, North Carolina's tax burden rank was 20th – not 36th – in 2000. It has since fluctuated between 17th and 22nd, and in 2008 it is again 20th.
A foundation spokesman has apologized for the confusion and an economist there says the newer methodology is more accurate.
JOBS: The phrase "the nation's third-worst unemployment growth" refers to a recent report that North Carolina's jobless rate rose from 5.9 percent in June to 6.6 percent in July. Only two other states, South Carolina and Mississippi, had larger gains during that one-month time period. Over a different time period – one year, for example – the ranking might be different.
The figure "80,000 jobs lost to China" has its origin in a July 30 report from the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. The left-leaning group says North Carolina lost 79,800 jobs to China between 2001 and 2007, more than all but seven other states.
In a 24-page report, the institute blames Chinese currency manipulation and the differences in Chinese and U.S. labor laws, among other reasons.
North Carolina Democrats, including Gov. Mike Easley, have repeatedly blamed federal trade policies for the job losses. Republicans have been more likely to blame state taxes, which they argue are too high.
THE QUOTE: The ad's final line, a Perdue quote, is from the Aug. 19 gubernatorial debate on WTVD in Durham. She was discussing how she would gather scientific advice on offshore oil drilling.
A fuller quote: "And I believe secondly that they must allow states to have the individual decision about what they're going to do in their state on drilling. I would do exactly what's been done before. I will listen to a team of engineers and scientists and ask them to tell me very quickly, to assess the new technology that's come since Governor Martin did the same thing in the late '80s."
Is it accurate? For the most part, no. Much of the ad either misstates or exaggerates Perdue's role, or takes her words out of context.
Perdue "presided" over tax increases in the sense that she held the gavel and helped record senators' votes, but her role was procedural. She did not propose the increases or vote on them.
Perdue did vote to increase the gas and sales taxes. She also voted to cut sales taxes.
The evidence that North Carolina's tax burden is the country's "largest-growing" is outmoded.
The ad's claims about jobs are accurate statements about North Carolina's economic health. There is no direct evidence to tie those losses to Perdue.
The quote about offshore oil drilling is taken out of context. To describe it as "Bev's plan for the future" is misleading.
– David Ingram