In a phone call this morning, Mecklenburg Democratic State Senator Joel Ford advised me the Senate will vote at 1 p.m. today on a proposal that may have the practical effect of killing the highly-controversial Sales-Tax Referendum. The referendum narrowly-passed by a 5-4 vote by the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners in mid-June. It's scheduled to be voted on by the general public in November and was intended to raise local teacher pay, as well as provide some funding for the arts, libraries and CPCC.
The referendum, as discussed here in “Teacher-pay tax divides county commissioners”, and updated in “Emails show even more dysfunction within Board of County Commissioners”, has been the subject of much speculation as to whether or not it would even make it to the November vote.
Many key community players, such as the Chamber of Commerce, have been reticent to indicate whether or not it would support the move. It has even split the local Democratic Party leadership. The state delegation - area members of the House and Senate - expressed dismay that they were not consulted in advance of the referendum being voted on. The delegation was adamant that issues such as teacher salaries should fall under the state government’s area of responsibility, and the state should continue to control policies such as who has the authority to levy sales taxes.
And that’s where the state Senate is stepping in, according to Ford. The action being voted on today would restrict and limit local government’s ability to levy such a tax, with the result being that the proposal as passed by the County Commission would be made unlawful. It is, essentially, a direct response to that proposal, designed expressly to kill that move, revoking in part some of the previously-granted authority to raise those taxes.
“Given the lack of collaboration with the state and other stakeholders in our community like the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the Chamber, and other commissioners, I am not surprised that the State is wanting to do this," former commission chairperson Pat Cotham said upon hearing the news today. Cotham voted against the referendum. "They likely felt disrespected as others did. It is important to ‘play well in the sandbox’ of government. Maybe they felt the Board of County Commissioners was ‘throwing sand in their face’ - and they reciprocated.”
Make no mistake, this move is nothing short of a rebuke to the five Democratic county commissioners who voted to put the referendum on the ballot. Assuming it passes the Senate vote this afternoon - which Sen. Ford advised me he is confident will happen - it must still pass the House. But the message could not be any more clear: This sales-tax referendum must die. One way or another.