Chris Fitzsimon: Wealthy not fleeing NC to avoid paying taxes

By Chris Fitzsimon

Columnist

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One of the most common arguments for not raising taxes on the wealthy in North Carolina is the claim that they will flee to other states, taking their money and businesses they own with them.

The folks at the Locke Foundation make this case often and did so again this week, pointing to a study by the Empire Center for New York State Policy that found that New York led the nation in the last decade in the percentage of residents who left for other states.

One story about the study said that “most analysts blamed N.Y.’s High taxes…” Locker Donna Martinez chimed in saying that “tax policy does have consequences.”

Martinez didn’t say anything about North Carolina’s ranking in the Empire Center report, most likely because it doesn’t fit with their claims about North Carolina tax rates keeping people away.

The report found that North Carolina actually had the second highest domestic migration in the country from 2000-2010. That would be the decade when lawmakers raised taxes to balance the budget, the same decade in which year after year the Lockers claimed that high taxes were hurting the state’s growth.

A report co-released this week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the N.C. Budget and Tax Center found that tax levels rarely figure into decisions about where people move.

BTC Director Alexandra Sirota points out that in 2003 after North Carolina added a new tax bracket for the wealthiest taxpayers, there was an increase in wealthy people moving to the state.

Shockingly, that study didn’t show up anywhere on the Locker’s site.

Graduation rates rise, Berger praises cuts

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger had an interesting response to this week’s news that the state’s high school graduation rate increased to 77.7 percent last year from 74.2 percent the year before. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but last year’s rate is an all time high.

Berger spent much of the legislative session pointing to the state’s graduation both as evidence that public schools were failing and as justification for slashing funding for education. This week he tried to make those points again and threw in the standard Republican talking point about people in education always wanting more money.

What they actually want is enough funding to do their job.

Berger never mentions that North Carolina ranked 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending on public schools. And that was last year, before the Republican budget. The cuts that Berger and his colleagues made drop North Carolina to 49th, just below Mississippi.

No reaction to the higher graduation rate yet from House Majority Leader Paul Stam, who wants to do more than slash education funding. Stam’s goal is to dismantle public schools altogether. He introduced voucher legislation this session to begin that process.

Quite a pair they make. Berger seems almost disappointed that graduation rates have increased. Stam seems disappointed that public schools exist at all.

News organization or propaganda outlet?

The folks at the Pope Civitas Institute continue to be treated by the mainstream media as a nonpartisan source of information. Results from the latest Civitas Poll have been reported across the state. Many media outlets refer to Civitas as a conservative organization, sometimes as a conservative advocacy group.

Nobody seems to remind their audience that Civitas has a purely political arm, Civitas Action, and that both sides of the group are run by the same people. Civitas Action ran attack ads in the last election to help elect Republicans.

An appropriate disclaimer when reporting Civitas poll results might be “A new survey by a group run by people who work to elect Republicans finds….”

Then there is WWAY-TV in Wilmington, which doesn’t even try. The station simply publishes the Civitas press releases on its website.

There is a disclaimer at the bottom that says any comments posted about the story, meaning the Civitas press release, are not the views or opinions of WWAY. Just the comments though.

The press release itself is presented without any disclaimer at all.

DC cred?

Speaking of interesting choices by the media, the News & Observer reported this week that the N.C. Republican Party had hired a new spokesman with “DC cred” and cited it as a sign that the national party thinks North Carolina is a priority state.

That might you lead to believe that a member of former President Bush’s staff or a communications person from a key Congressional office was coming to Raleigh to head up the state party’s spin machine.

It turns out the new NC GOP mouthpiece was the deputy executive director of the College Republican National Committee. That might have been a challenging job, but automatically bestowing DC credibility?

Chris Fitzsimon is director of NC Policy Watch

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