Changes made to controversial sales tax bill

by: Jenna Deery Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - North Carolina Senate leaders made changes to a controversial bill that would limit how much money you have to pay in sales taxes to the county where you live.
Members of a Senate Finance Committee packed into a room Monday night and made a few small changes to a bill on the fast track to the senate floor.
"This is not a tax increase in any way of thinking but it does give the counties an opportunity to meet their priorities based on what their County Commissioners feel is necessary," said Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg County.
The Committee changed where county leaders can spend money from a hike in sales taxes. They deleted restrictions that said county leaders had to pick between using the money on education and transportation. Committee members tried to advertise the bill changes as giving county leaders "more flexibility" with spending on their needs.
The amendments allow them to spend the money on education, transportation or both.
They can also split it between general purpose needs and education or transportation.
They still can't raise sales taxes any higher than 2.5 percent according to the bill Mecklenburg County leaders are against.
"It's hard for us to see how it wasn't directed at us," said Mecklenburg County Commission Chairman Trevor Fuller. 
Mecklenburg County's sales tax is already at the maximum set in the bill at 2.5 percent.
The bill comes when Mecklenburg County Commissioners are trying to ask voters for an extra quarter cent to help fund teacher pay raises.
Right now, they are campaigning to get the bill defeated before it reaches Gov. Pat McCrory.
"If we are not able to go forward with this referendum, we are going to be in a very difficult situation here in Mecklenburg County.
If county leaders don't get that referendum on the ballot and approved, some tough decisions may have to be made including considering property taxes going up or cutting county services, if boosting teacher pay is still a priority.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday or Wednesday.
It may to go the House on Thursday.