Gov. Bev Perdue on Thursday took her first swipe at a $336 million tax break that state lawmakers added to last year's budget. It was billed by House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger, both Republicans, as a break for small businesses, but in reality it is open to anyone who is an owner or partner in a business that is not your standard corporation.
As the N&O reported June 3, lawyers in the state's top money-making firms, for example, will be eligible to collect the roughly $3,500 tax break. What's interesting about Perdue's attack on the tax break isn't what she says now, but what she didn't say when we thrice asked her whether she supported it -- twice while reporting the June 3 story and a third time when we did a reaction story a few days later.
Perdue, a Democrat not seeking re-election, could not be reached in person, but Mark Johnson, her deputy press secretary, issued this statement regarding the tax break: "The Governor supports tax relief that helps businesses create jobs." After receiving that non-answer answer, we asked again. Johnson's response: "You have our answer."
After the story ran, we sought reaction from the gubernatorial candidates, Perdue, Tillis and Berger. Perdue, like the others, relied on her spokesman for a comment. Said Johnson: "The Governor supports tax relief that helps businesses create jobs."
The latest position -- after some Democratic lawmakers unsuccessfully sought to limit the tax break to small businesses -- is a bit different. A news release listing the "Top 20 Budget Flaws" says this: "It's worth noting that, despite all of these failings, the General Assembly manages to lavish $336 million of tax breaks to lobbying firms, lawyers, and other wealthy businesses. Budgets are about values, priorities, and choices. The General Assembly chose tax breaks to wealthy businesses, while other pressing needs went unmet."
This morning, Perdue vetoed the Republican-led General Assembly's budget. It's unclear whether she will go to the mat on the $336 million tax break in the days ahead.
--Dan Kane, staff writer