By a 32-15 vote, the Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a new plan that cuts income taxes and restrains government spending in future years.
Senators debated the bill for roughly an hour, splitting along familiar partisan lines as Democrats criticized the disproportionate benefits for the wealthy and Republicans touted it as a job-creation measure.
"Consider the reality that we have people and we have businesses out there that are hurting," said Senate leader Phil Berger, the chief bill sponsor. "One reason they are hurting is this government has too much of a hand in their pockets."
Sen. Josh Stein, a Raleigh Democrat, said the bill doesn't represent tax reform, merely shifting the burden to the middle class by eliminating tax breaks aimed at retirees, college tuition and rural areas. He said it would lead to cuts in education in future budget years.
The whole effort may not matter. House Speaker Thom Tillis and Gov. Pat McCrory are not endorsing the plan -- meaning the Senate's so-called final offer isn't likely to move the needle.