Someone please find the consistency in the N&O’s position on sales taxes

Back in 2013, the editorial board of The News & Observer was very, very upset by a Republican change in tax policy over Democratic objections:

Two years ago, Republican lawmakers refused to extend a temporary 1-cent sales tax despite a plea from Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue. Republicans said the money should be returned to taxpayers who would use it to boost the economy. The tax disappeared into its sunset, costing the state $1.2 billion annually.

In their view, the ongoing temporary increase in the sales tax by Democrats was good because it raised the state $1.2 billion a year more in revenue.

And for Republicans to let the sales tax fall on schedule was bad because it would cost the state $1.2 billion a year.

In January, the N&O editorial board was upset over DMV fee increases, “simply a quiet way for the Republican-led legislature to collect more revenue while Republican leaders boast about cutting taxes.”

It wasn’t just DMV fee increases that kindled their ire. They also disliked the Republicans’ broadening of the sales tax to include services (in which they neared rare agreement with folks hereabouts). As they wrote:

It’s one thing to cut taxes in a way that genuinely gives the great majority of earners more money to take home. It’s another to give low- and middle-income earners a token tax savings that’s less than what they’ll pay in higher fees and expanded sales taxes.

Elsewhere they described the sales tax as a regressive tax (which it is) and carped that people “pay more in state sales tax.”

In their view, for Republicans to raise the sales tax on services is bad because it harms the poor and middle class.

It is also bad for Republicans to raise automobile fees because it hurts the poor and middle class.

(Notice how tidy their “one thing [vs.] another” formulation is: it doesn’t require them actually supporting the “one thing” before comparing it with the other.)

Meanwhile, the editors are very, very excited about the possibility that Wake County could see a sales tax increase if voters approve a commuter rail transit plan.

This happened, they’d taken pains to explain, because the Democrats swept control of the Wake County Board of Commissioners in 2014.

They write:

Now, at last, Wake County has a chance to move ahead with plans to expand mass transit, from increased bus service to eventually commuter rail. Voters will decide in November whether to approve a half-cent sales tax hike for the transit plan – and fortunately they have signaled they’re so inclined.

Further on down, they note:

The plan, for which the sales tax boost would raise about $1 billion (the remaining $1.3 billion would come from a vehicle registration fee and federal money)…

In their view, for Democrats to raise the sales tax is good because it could raise $1 billion for mass transit.

It is also good for Democrats to raise automobile fees because it raises even more funding for mass transit.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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