McCrory’s Tax Vipers

“Teacher, what should we do?” So asked the members of the tax collecting contingent of the “brood of vipers” that sought baptism from John in Luke 3:7-13.

“Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you,” John answered them. It was a straightforward admonishment to correct course from the greedy practice of collecting more taxes than the law prescribed and pocketing the difference.

Fast forward to today. It’s our own North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) tax code prescribers who could stand a visit to the banks of the Jordan for a good moral dunking. Governor Pat McCrory goes first. The brood’s leader certainly involved himself in negotiations to produce last year’s tax bill which he signed into law. In short, it’s a morally objectionable bill that takes from the poor and gives to the wealthy.

According to the NC Justice Center, in 2013 NC lawmakers gave us a dubious tax distinction. We became the only state in the nation with an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to eliminate this proven credit in 30 years. North Carolina already has the 10th highest poverty rate in the nation, and more than 1 of 4 of its children live in poverty. The EITC helps low- to moderateincome families keep more of what they earn to help them avoid poverty and public assistance. Yanking the credit will result in a tax increase for over 900,000 working families, including 64,000 military families. Combined with the deep income tax cuts, the loss of the EITC may well push people deeper into poverty, especially those already living paycheck to paycheck.

In Onslow County, with a strong military family presence, 12,901 families received the EITC benefitting 17,414 children and saving families over $1.5 million dollars. But these families will be left out in the cold this year unless lawmakers channel some righteous John and correct course in the upcoming short session that begins in May.

To heed John’s call to tax righteousness, Representatives like George Cleveland (R) of Jacksonville will have to fully confess that the poor are very much among us when the NCGA goes back into session. He denied these citizens justice in 2012 when he said “We have no one in the state of North Carolina living in extreme poverty.” He proposed that a House Committee remove an observation that more children were living in extreme poverty. This was despite information indicating otherwise in his own backyard in Onslow County. He withdrew his proposal under the scathing scrutiny it drew.

But if lawmakers do not withdraw this session and choose to stand their unjust ground, the poor and moderate- income families will suffer. Their taxes will be raised with the elimination of the EITC, while a massive tax cut will be afforded to wealthy individuals and lucrative corporations. For individuals, it’s achieved by replacing a progressive income tax structure with a flat tax so that nearly two-thirds of the net tax cuts would go to the richest 1 percent with an average income of $940,000. For corporations, it comes by cutting the corporate income rate over several years with many of the benefits flowing to shareholders outside the state. The tax plan will drain $2.4 billion dollars in revenue over the next five years at the expense of funding priorities like schools, early childhood development, and other vital public services.

Who do you think has to “find” the “lost” revenue? Who pays the price? The plan shifts costs of priority services to the middle class and the poor while increasing taxes for the bottom 80 percent of taxpayers on average.

As observed in Isaiah 10:1-2, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people …”

Shall we gather at the river NCGA? For more information: Lose-EITC Million-Last-Claim-EITC Denies-Poverty

Marena Groll is a liberal feminist, former educator and life-long United Methodist. A native daughter, she holds high bar-b-que standards y’all.