Tax reform, film incentives among legislative priorities

by Michelle Saxton
Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Coastal issues and the film industry are among priorities for New Hanover County’s delegation to the North Carolina General Assembly, but a dominant topic in the session that convenes Jan. 30 likely will be tax reform, local lawmakers said.

“Tax modernization in the state is necessary,” Rep. Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover and Brunswick, said Tuesday, Jan. 22. “Our tax structure is very old, and it’s based on a manufacturing-style economy. Now our jobs in North Carolina are more service-related.”

Local lawmakers were waiting for legislation before commenting on specifics, but discussed a Republican leadership proposal to shift from state personal and corporate income taxes to taxes on sales and services.

“It is extremely complicated; it’s a moving target,” Rep. Ted Davis Jr., R-New Hanover, said Jan. 22. “That’s going to take a lot of discussion.”

“This is going to have to be an incremental process,” Republican Freshman Leader Rep. Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover, said Friday, Jan. 18. “You’ve got to be careful of unintended consequences.”

The tax reform issue will move forward publically with comments from citizens, business leaders and workers in determining how to make North Carolina more business friendly, Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, said Jan. 22. 

“The nice thing about consumption tax is it’s across the board,” Goolsby said.

Film incentives

In tax modernization discussions, local lawmakers planned to include why continuing a tax credit incentive is critical to the film industry, Hamilton said.

Film officials who relocate temporarily for production would see no benefit from a state income tax elimination because they do not pay taxes here, Hamilton said.

“To incentivize the film industry and continue the momentum we’ve established … we will have to find a different way to meet their goal,” she said.

“When it comes to jobs my immediate thought leads to the film industry and making sure that we do everything possible to keep our film incentives,” Goolsby said. “This is something where we literally compete head to head with other states.” 

Coastal caucus

Lawmakers from coastal counties were coordinating goals for the upcoming session.

“Representatives and senators in the coastal districts are in a huge minority, and if we’re not all going for the same goals and objectives then we’re not going to get anywhere,” Catlin said.

“You have more impact in numbers,” Davis said. “You have a greater voice.”

Beach renourishment, inlet dredging and coastal insurance rates were among issues to address.

“The coastal caucus is very, very serious about stopping the egregious increases in insurance rates along the coast,” Hamilton said.

Human trafficking

Goolsby, who sponsored a bill during the last session to add human trafficking to the list of criminal convictions requiring sex offender registration if the victim was subjected to sexual servitude or was a minor, said he would again pursue tougher penalties against those who sell others into prostitution. 

“We have to deal with this issue,” Goolsby said. “There’s particularly young people getting drawn into this as runaways or throwaway kids being abused and taken advantage of, and it’s just not right.”

Pimps have kept women enslaved in prostitution by having children with them, said Goolsby, co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations on Justice and Public Safety Committee and Judiciary I Committee.

“Some of the Safe Harbor legislation we’re looking at actually will strip the pimp fathers of these children, who are used as pawns to control the mothers, from their parental rights,” Goolsby said, adding lawmakers also may discuss potentially offering deferred prosecutions to trafficking victims and helping them if they get off the street and into shelters and drug treatment, to become good mothers and get educated and get jobs.

“We want to do everything we can to empower these women,” Goolsby said.

Hamilton also noted punishment has mostly focused on prostitutes in the past.

“It’s really time to change the way we talk about the issue of prostitution,” Hamilton said.

Nowadays, instead of seeing prostitutes standing on street corners, they are being held in hotel rooms or trafficked online, she said.

“We’re having to change the way that law enforcement goes about discovering the crime,” Hamilton said. 

Other issues

Maintaining, upgrading and expanding North Carolina’s infrastructure — such as restoring the rail line between Wallace and Castle Hayne — is a main focus for Hamilton, vice-chairwoman of the House Public Utilities Committee.

“I very much see the government’s role in business as being the provider of public infrastructure — roads, water, sewer, things of that nature — that provide an environment in which business can grow,” Hamilton said.

Davis, vice-chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee C, said he would like to see voter identification and the unemployment insurance debt addressed. 

Water preservation and allocation plans may be discussed in making sure North Carolina has adequate water resources, said Catlin, vice-chairman of the House Environment Committee.

Catlin, also on the House Regulatory Reform Committee, wants to expedite permit processes without eliminating good environmental rules.

“We’ve got to find a way to feed and employ a growing world population while at the same time protecting our environment and the future,” Catlin said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers encouraged the public to contact them with concerns.

“We’ve got four good legislators from here,” Goolsby said. “We’re here to help people, and we just need folks to stay involved, to pay attention, to ask questions.”

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