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Bloomberg BNA recently posed a series of tax-centric questions to the Republican and Democrat candidates for governor in North Carolina. Below are the responses from Democrat candidate Roy Cooper.
Interview by Andrew M. Ballard
Roy Cooper grew up in Nash County and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he also earned his Juris Doctor degree. After a few years of practicing law, he was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1986. In 1991, he became a state Senator, eventually serving as that body’s majority leader. He was elected as the state’s attorney general in November 2000 and currently is serving his fourth term. Roy and his wife, Kristin, have three daughters.
Editor's Note: Cooper’s campaign didn't provide answers to Bloomberg BNA's tax questionnaire that sought his opinion related to priorities on state and local tax issues, hurdles in enacting his tax policy priorities, challenges in the tax and revenue realm facing the state in light of market conditions and whether the state’s tax regime is properly balanced. The responses below were developed from material on the candidate’s website, public statements and other reporting.
What are your priorities related to state and local tax, if elected?
Cooper believes that Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has supported budget and tax decisions that have mainly benefited wealthy individuals and corporations. Cooper’s campaign website says the legislation the current governor has backed resulted in tax increases on low- and middle-income citizens while the 1 percent of taxpayers with the highest incomes saw their taxes fall by an average of $10,574. “Corporate giveaways and tax cuts for the wealthiest come at a high cost for middle-class families,” Cooper has said.
Cooper says he seeks to provide tax relief to the middle class, better target economic incentives and support small businesses.
What existing state and local tax measures or initiatives would you seek to support? Or curb?
Cooper has advocated using future gains in state revenue to reinstate North Carolina’s childcare tax credit for working families, with the potential to increase the credit amount as revenue grows. Cooper also supports the restoration of the state’s film tax credit, which lawmakers replaced with a modest grant program at the end of 2014.
Cooper also says he wants to reconsider current economic development incentives to improve their effectiveness. “As Governor, I will put measures in place to direct more incentives to projects in target industries with legitimate growth potential, so we invest in more winners and create more jobs,” Cooper says on his campaign website. Cooper also says he would shift a greater amount of incentive awards away from large companies to businesses with 200 or fewer employees.
What is the biggest hurdle you foresee to enacting your major tax-related initiatives?
The state Legislature is the biggest hurdle Cooper faces for most of his initiatives. Currently, Republicans control both the state House of Representatives and the Senate, with roughly a two-thirds majority in both bodies. Absent a significant shift during the 2016 elections, lawmakers will retain significant control over the state budget. Revenue growth will likely have an impact on Cooper’s plans as well.
Do you believe North Carolina has the right balance right now in terms of overall taxes? Does anything need to be re-balanced?
No. Cooper believes that revisions to North Carolina’s tax code supported by McCrory have been driven by ideology and mostly benefited the wealthy and large corporations. He is advocating for providing more relief to and greater support of small businesses and the middle class.
“We need a new set of priorities that focuses on rising incomes, putting more money in the pockets of working families, and helping small businesses start up and grow,” Cooper has said.
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