Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Tax plan details emerge, N.C. sheriff won't enforce gun orders

TODAY'S BIG STORY: Republican lawmakers outlined a proposal Wednesday to revamp the state’s tax system, offering a slew of reforms that would radically shift the tax burden in North Carolina. The proposal would eliminate personal and corporate income taxes in exchange for higher state sales taxes levied against groceries, medical expenses and other currently tax-free services.

SUPPORTERS SAY: Senate leader Phil Berger said the moves are necessary to modernize the state’s tax code and kick-start a struggling economy. He pointed to the state’s tax rates, saying the current 6.9 percent corporate tax rate and 7.75 percent personal tax rate for the highest earners are among the highest the region. “It is important for us in terms of our competitive posture with other states,” the Republican from Eden told reporters. “It is important for us in terms of making sure there is a fair allocation of the cost of government.”

CRITICS SAY: Critics caution that the proposals represent a fundamental change in who pays the state’s tax burden, and economists said that low-income people would feel the brunt. “For this particular proposal, the responsibility would shift from rich households and prosperous corporations to poor households and smaller businesses,” Dave Ribar, a professor at UNC-Greensboro, concluded in his analysis of the proposal.

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DON'T CALL IT A PLAN: Senate Republican leaders cautioned that the proposals being considered are a “concept” – not a plan. And it would be implemented over the course of several years. But it serves as a starting point for negotiations with House Republicans and Gov. Pat McCrory, both of whom support the effort but remain ambiguous on the details. The legislative proposals essentially mirror a Civitas report in conjunction with economist Art Laffer.

N.C. SHERIFF SAYS HE WON'T ENFORCE OBAMA'S GUN ORDERS: Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders told the Moccasin Creek Minutemen -- eight hours after President Barack Obama's announcement of gun control measures --that obeying an executive order is “not in the law, not in the Constitution,” and declared: “I’m not going to be going around taking guns from law-abiding citizens. Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, also a Republican, said they’d be “obliged to enforce (the law).” But his answer didn't sit well with the crowd. “There’s a line I’ve drawn for myself,” said Mark Barnes of Knightdale, pausing to look directly at Harrison. “Do not come to my house and take my guns.”

RADIO MAN: Gov. Pat McCrory is making the rounds on radio today. He will speak to G105's Bob and Showgram in Raleigh in the morning and WPTF talk radio (680 AM) for an interview with conservative commentator Bill LuMaye.

LEGISLATIVE POTPOURRI:Senate leader Phil Berger said Wednesday that he’d like to cut the state’s $20.2 billion budget, take another run at changing teacher tenure laws, and put a constitutional limit on union contracts. At a news conference, Berger, a Republican from Eden, sketched an agenda for the coming legislative session that would move the state to the right and is sure to roil labor, civil rights and anti-poverty groups. More on various topics here.

THE LAMEST SHOW ON EARTH: That's the headline on the Indy's legislative preview section. Read coverage here and see the cartoon that summarizes it all here.

DUKE ENERGY'S JIM ROGERS SAYS MERGER WAS WORTH IT:Duke Energy chief executive Jim Rogers traces the roots of a state investigation into the Duke-Progress Energy merger to differences in how regulators viewed the $32 billion deal. In his first interview on the settlement that ended the probe in December, Rogers said the merger was worthwhile despite an 18-month approval process and forced management changes at Duke. “The birthing process of the creation of the largest utility in the country has been quite difficult,” he said Wednesday. “I think the baby is going to be beautiful.”

FUNDRAISER ALMOST AS SHAKEDOWN: From The Insider's Patrick Gannon: House Speaker Thom Tillis and the N.C. Republican House Caucus have sent out invitations for an “evening of celebration,” a fundraiser for House Republicans the night before the start of the 2013 legislative session. Lobbyists, apparently, are welcome. The Jan. 29 reception, which includes photo opportunities with the leadership, will be held at the Cardinal Club, 150 Fayetteville Street Mall, according to the invite. For $10,000, 12 people can attend the reception and get their pictures taken with leadership members, along with “special recognition” at the event. Lesser packages are available for less money. A general admission ticket costs $150. It’s almost like it’s a shakedown,” said Democracy North Carolina’'s Bob Hall of the timing of the reception, the night before session reconvenes Jan. 30. He added that both Republicans and Democrats have held similar events on past session eves. He also said contributions made that night won’t be available for public scrutiny until July, when mid-year campaign finance reports are due to the State Board of Elections. “The session may be over by then,” Hall said. Jordan Shaw, a Tillis spokesman, deemed Hall’s criticism, “just another partisan cheap shot, "one that I don’t recall him taking when the Democrats were in charge.”"

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