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Inside Politics: Senator upset because legislature failed to pass tax break for veterans
Fayetteville Observer - 7/8/2018
July 08--Republican state Sen. Ron Rabin of Harnett County is unhappy with his fellow Republicans in the state House of Representatives for failing to pass an income tax break he sponsored for military veterans.
But an upper-ranked Republican in the House said last week it was Rabin's fellow senators who agreed to set aside Rabin's proposed tax break.
Now that the General Assembly has concluded its main lawmaking session for 2018, Rabin's veterans' tax cut bill is essentially dead.
Rabin's legislation would have made military pensions exempt from North Carolina income taxes. Older veterans already have this tax break, but more recent veterans do not.
"This bill is a very simple bill, it helps us live up to our credo of being the most military-friendly state in the United States," Rabin said in June 2017 during Senate debate on the bill. The legislation, Senate Bill 153, then passed the Senate 47-0.
And it sat in a House committee with no action on it for nearly a year.
Veterans hoping to use the tax break wondered what became of it.
Rabin said on Facebook that in June he met with Republican state House Speaker Tim Moore to see if the House would move the bill. "The next day, to my surprise, I was asked to present the bill to the House Finance Committee," Rabin wrote on Facebook on July 1.
Then Rabin found there was a catch: His bill had been modified. In addition to his tax break for military pensions, five other tax breaks were added.
One of these was a property tax break for disabled veterans -- an idea that passed the House 116-0 in March 2017 and then was buried in a Senate committee. The other tax breaks: One for the surviving spouses of emergency personnel killed in the line of duty, one for retired fire and rescue squad workers, one for cemeteries and one for cranes used for metal work.
Each tax break would reduce tax revenues, some for the state, some for the local governments. The reduction in revenue would have forced other taxpayers to pay more to take up the slack or require all taxpayers to live with less services. Initially the revenue reductions would total $26.8 million, the legislature's staff estimated.
Four years from now, the estimates say the tax breaks would cut state tax revenues by $51.8 million -- with $34.8 million in reductions generated by Rabin's military retiree pensions tax cut.
"The House Finance Committee passed that inflated bill knowing it was not economically feasible and the Senate could not concur. By that action, in effect, the House killed the bill," Rabin said.
There's more to the story, said Republican state Rep. John Szoka of Cumberland County. Szoka is a co-chairman of the House Finance Committee.
Rabin's military pensions tax break was considered more than a year ago, Szoka said, when House and Senate budget negotiators were trying to lock down provisions of the 2017-19 biennial state budget.
"During negotiations, Senate negotiators in 2017 withdrew the proposal to not tax military retirement in favor of providing overall tax relief to all taxpayers," Szoka said.
For example, the income tax rate for individuals was lowered to 5.25 percent from 5.49 percent, Szoka said, and the standard deduction for a couple was raised from $17,500 to $20,000.
The House and Senate budget negotiators signed their agreement on June 19, 2017.
Nine days later -- well after Rabin's idea was axed during the behind-closed-doors budget negotiations -- the Senate passed Rabin's bill and sent it to the House.
Rabin did not file for re-election this year. He said the Senate leadership told him it would pursue his military pensions tax cut idea again next year.
"My apologies for not being a good enough politician to get SB153 passed," Rabin said.
Christian Cano, who lost the Democratic primary for U.S. House District 9, has crossed party lines to endorse Libertarian Jeff Scott for the seat now held by Republican U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger.
Meanwhile, Dan McCready, the Democrat who beat Cano, has been endorsed by Bob Orr, a Republican former associate justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Pittenger lost the Republican primary to Mark Harris of Charlotte in a fierce election.
Despite the acrimony of the Republican primary, Pittenger is staying within the GOP lines and has endorsed Harris.
Cumberland County District Court Judge Steve Stokes was presented with the Kappa Man of the Year Award on June 23 by the Fayetteville/Fort Bragg Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.
Robeson County Assistant District Attorney Mary Jane Richardson of Lumberton to the North Carolina Speech and Language Pathologists and Audiologists Board of Examiners, appointed by the governor.
Robeson County Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Burton of Lumberton to the North Carolina State Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators, appointed by the governor.
Stephen H. Wheeler of Fayetteville, owner of Holmes Security, to the North Carolina Alarm Systems Licensing Board, appointed by the state legislature on the recommendation of the House speaker.
--Cumberland County Republican Women's Club: Tuesday, Morgan's Chop House, 201 S. McPherson Church Road. Dinner ($18) at 6 p.m., meeting at 7. Guest: Karen Wright Fairley of the North Carolina Commission on Human Trafficking. Reservations: 910-580-1840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
--Democratic Women of Cumberland County: Thursday, Elizabeth's Pizza, 2468 Hope Mills Road. Dinner at 5:30 p.m., meeting at 6:30. Guest: Carrie Sutton, chairwoman of the Cumberland County Board of Education.
--Cumberland County Senior Democrats: 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, College Lakes Recreation Center, 4945 Rose Hill Road. Guest: state Senate District 19 candidate Kirk deViere.
--Cumberland County Republican Party Board Meeting: 6 p.m.July 16, 2018 Campaign Office, 3035-B Boone Trail Extension.
--Fayetteville Republican Women's Club, Late Summer Supreme Social: 2 p.m.Aug. 25, The Heritage Square Historic Properties, 225 Dick St. Guest speaker: Associate Justice Barbara Jackson of the North Carolina Supreme Court. For information or sponsorships, 910-489-2055.
Inside Politics is published on Mondays. Send news and announcements to InsidePolitics@fayobserver.com. The submission deadline is Thursday.
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