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Months after approval, new tax law mired in questions

The sweeping tax overhaul approved in July is leading to mounting questions months later.

A N.C. Department of Revenue official told a legislative oversight committee Tuesday that it is still trying to determine how to interpret a variety of provisions in the tax bill Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law in July.

Morning Memo: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to attend Wake fundraiser

JAN BREWER TO ATTEND WAKE GOP FUNDRAISER: The Wake County Republican Party announced Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer will attend a Sept. 14 fundraiser in Raleigh for the local party's fall candidates. The announcement email includes the now infamous photo of Brewer, a Republican, wagging her finger upon meeting President Barack Obama at an airport tarmac. The top ticket for the fundraiser is a $5,000 VIP package and a single ticket is $75. The party expects the event to sell out.

THE MUMMIES RETURN: From columnist Rob Christensen-- "We have seen this before in North Carolina – the reign of the green-eyeshaded men who thought low taxes trumped all, and if there were any coins left in the till at the end of the day they would throw it into the education pot.

"It was called the 1800s. And Walter Hines Page had a name for them. He called North Carolina’s leaders “the mummies” as in very old, well-wrapped, very dead Egyptians because of their complacent conservatism." Read his full column here.

***Get more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Tillis dodges shutdown questions; McHenry pressed on Obamacare

TILLIS DODGES GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN QUESTION: Republican Thom Tillis is emphasizing his opposition to the federal health care law in his campaign for the U.S. Senate but at the same time he's avoiding answering some questions on the issue. A Democratic Party operative recently asked the Republican House speaker about whether he agrees with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others who suggested shutting down government to defund the federal health care law.

While walking to a recent D.C. fundraiser, Tillis didn't offer a direct answer -- even though if elected he may face similar circumstance. "It's not my decision to make but anything we could do to slow down or eliminate Obamacare would be good for the nation," he said in a video posted online. (Watch above.)

Does Tillis agree with North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr that a shutdown is the "dumbest idea" ever? Again no answer. "I'm going to leave that to the duly elected senators but i think we can do to stop Sen. Hagan and President Obama from creating all the uncertainty and cost that comes with Obamacare it would be a good thing," he said. Expect both questions to return soon.

***See the Tillis video below in the Dome Morning Memo, along with another video from Republicans punking people at the "Moral Monday" rally.

Morning Memo: GOP not united on budget; Tillis explains abortion vote

REPUBLICANS SCRAMBLE TO PASS THEIR OWN BUDGET: Ten House Republicans voted against their party's $20.6 billion spending plan, including one of the chief budget writers. GOP leaders held an extra lengthy caucus meeting Tuesday to whip members to vote for the bill but hours before hand lobbyists reported that it looked like it could fail.

The House passed the budget on a 66-52 preliminary vote. … It’s somewhat unusual for the majority party to lose more than a handful of its members’ on a budget vote. It’s even rarer for a budget committee leader to vote against the budget as did Rep. Linda Johnson, a Kannapolis Republican.“I was not pleased with the education budget,” Johnson said. (More below.)

THOM TILLIS SETS HIS ABORTION VOTE STRAIGHT: Every move House Speaker Thom Tillis makes is viewed through the prism of his U.S. Senate campaign in 2014. And for weeks the Republican's rationale for supporting the House's much-debated abortion measure remained quiet. Asked about it Tuesday, Tillis said "it happens to be something that I support and I thought if I didn't, they'd say, 'Why didn't you?' so I thought would solve the question by making it very clear where I stood on the bill." It puts Tillis, who is considered a moderate Republican, in the same position as Rick Santorum. (Read why below.)

***Keep reading for more North Carolina political intelligence in today's Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Gov. Pat McCrory signs tax bill into law

Gov. Pat McCrory signed a major tax cut bill into law Tuesday, saying it will help ease the state's economic pain.

The measure cuts personal and corporate income taxes to the lowest levels of neighboring states and limits future states spending. McCrory and Republican leaders say it will give a break to every taxpayer but legislative analysis suggest some families, retirees and small business owners may see a tax hike.

Morning Memo: GOP moves to limit early voting as budget debate begins

REPUBLICANS MOVE TO CURTAIL EARLY VOTING: Republicans are moving in the final days of the legislative session to cut early voting by a week, limit Sunday voting and curtail some voter registration efforts in a sweeping bill that is expected to debut Tuesday. The measure also may advance the state's presidential primary to a week after South Carolina's first-in-the-South contest. The last-minute election measures will appear in a Senate bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. (Check Dome for more on the bill later today.)

EDUCATION FOCUS OF BUDGET DEBATE: The N.C. Association of Educators is threatening to sue over the tenure provisions in the state budget. State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said for the first time in her 30-year career, she fears for the future of public education. “I am truly worried about the ongoing starvation of our public schools,” she said. “I see other states making a commitment to public education. In our state I see in this budget we’re cutting teachers, we’re cutting teacher assistants, we’re cutting instructional support.”

With education as the focus, the House and Senate will take budget votes Tuesday and Wednesday as they race toward the end of session.

***More on the state budget and other North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Pat McCrory to sign tax bill Tuesday

Gov. Pat McCrory announced Monday he plans to sign the sweeping tax bill into law Tuesday.

The Republican will hold a 1 p.m. bill signing ceremony for HB998 at the mansion, joined by House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger.

The three Republicans agreed to a tax plan a week ago Monday and lawmakers rushed to pass it into law even as concerns mounted about who will benefit and who will lose under the measure. Under the bill, the state's three-tiered income tax structure would vanish, replaced by a flat personal income tax at 5.75 percent in 2015. The corporate tax would drop to 5 percent.

Morning Memo: House, Senate leaders claim victories in budget deal

BUDGET DEAL UNVEILED: House and Senate leaders released the compromise $20.6 billion budget plan Sunday evening. House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger can claim wins. Eugenics compensation and vouchers are priorities for Tillis, a candidate for U.S. Senate. Berger has tried for more than a year to end teacher tenure. The two men's victories speak volumes about their political leanings and strategy and how a potential race between them would look. Berger will decide by the end of the month whether he will challenge Tillis in the GOP primary.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The 12th "Moral Monday" demonstration at the legislature will focus on a new voter ID measure. More than 800 protesters have been arrested so far with more expected Monday.

The Senate worked Friday and left the House quite a to-do list. The House calendar today includes bills pertaining to private school vouchers, a massive rewrite of state regulations, drug testing and background checks for public assistance recipients, fracking and charter schools. A bill to further delay Jordan Lake water quality standards is also on the agenda. The Senate won't take any votes Monday -- allowing Senate leader Phil Berger to attend the Republican State Leadership Committee meeting in California. He is chairman of the organization's campaign committee.

***Get more on the state state budget and a North Carolina political news roundup to start the final week of the legislative session below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Speaker's hometown paper calls for his resignation

HOUSE SPEAKER'S HOMETOWN PAPER CALLS FOR HIS RESIGNATION: Responding to the second story (here and here) in a month about House Speaker Thom Tillis skipping session to fundraise for his U.S. Senate campaign, The Charlotte Observer editorial board said he needs to resign his post. In an editorial headlined, "Tillis tries but can't serve two masters," they concluded: "It’s fine that Tillis is interested in higher office, and we don’t fault him for recognizing the need to raise millions. But the fiscal year started three weeks ago and the legislature still has not agreed on a budget. Tillis is missing sessions. His actions are raising questions of conflict of interest.

"He has shown he can’t give his undivided attention to the N.C. House and the U.S. Senate at the same time. He should give up his Speaker’s gavel, resign from his House seat and give his full energy to his Senate bid, unencumbered by such distractions as running the state."

Facing this question before, Tillis has said he intends to remain speaker and do his job. But he also said he wouldn't actively campaign during the legislative session, a pledge that is in question. Some Republicans are starting to privately grumble that he may need to step down. Read the editorial here.

PAT McCRORY ON HIS FALLING APPROVAL RATINGS: Meh. WCNC-TV's Dave Wagner interviewed Gov. Pat McCrory and asked about the latest PPP numbers showing McCrory in the negative for the first time in his term. Accccording to a @WagnerWCNC tweet, McCrory replied: "I'm shocked they're not lower, cause we're stepping on the toes of the status quo."

***Welcome to the Dome Morning Memo -- more North Carolina political news and analysis below.****

Morning Memo: McCrory's taxing pledge; Tillis super PAC money questioned

TAX BILL NOW PUTS FOCUS ON McCRORY: Gov. Pat McCrory pledge in his campaign to make any tax overhaul revenue neutral. It was the only specific detail he offered and came under pressure from Democratic candidate Walter Dalton who warned such a tax bill, if not revenue neutral, could lead to huge cuts in government spending on popular services.

With legislative approval Wednesday, the two-billion tax bill goes to the governor. Will he meet his pledge, one he repeated just months ago in his State of the State address? It depends. The governor's office called the bill fiscally responsible and essentially revenue-neutral in the first year at about $35 million in less revenue. From there, the bill is nowhere close to bringing in as much state revenue as projected. And McCrory is moving the goalposts and redefining what he meant. (Read below to see how the governor's office is positioning itself.)

TILLIS SUPER PAC GETS BIG CHECKS FROM 3 HE HELPED PUT ON UNC BOARD: A super PAC for House Speaker Thom Tillis recently raised $105,000 from five donors for his U.S. Senate race, including $70,000 from three men the House appointed to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The contributions raise more questions about whether donations to the Republican candidate’s bid are connected to legislation in the chamber he controls. They also highlight Tillis’ ability to raise money when other lawmakers are limited in soliciting campaign contributions. W.G. Champion Mitchell said his $25,000 contribution had nothing to do with his recent appointment to the university’s governing board. “I want to see him be our next senator,” Mitchell said. “That is the answer.” Read more here.

***Get a full roundup of North Carolina political news and analysis below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

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