EDITORIAL: New year, new tax decrease

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Jim Kransberger’s “PORK.gov." (courtesy photo)

What’s not to like about a tax decrease? Surely we can find something.

Beginning this week, North Carolina taxpayers and corporations will have a few more microlayers shaved off their tax bills, as a plan enacted in 2013 — the early days of GOP reign in Raleigh — comes to full fruition.

The personal income tax rate drops from 5.499 percent to 5.25, while corporate tax rates decline a full half-point to 2.5 percent.

The changes benefit corporations, for which half a point can constitute millions, over individuals, most of whom will see perhaps a three-figure bump in their paychecks over the course of the year. For example, a household at the Census-defined median income of $50,320 will save about $125 in 2019.

There’s a component for low-income households as well, raising the threshold before which taxes kick in by 12.5 percent — to $20,000 per year for married couples and $10,000 per year for individuals, which is not insignificant in a state where 14.7 percent of its 10.38 million people live in official poverty.

That’s 1.5 million people, if you’re not doing the math at home, though architects of the bill said it could affect as many as a third of all returns filed in the state.

We’ve been slashing taxes in this state like fieldhands in the sugarcane since the GOP took over in 2010, even going so far as to place a 7 percent cap into the state constitution in November — and the GOP math has delivered budget surpluses over the last three years.

This latest round of cuts has reduced the state budget by $3.5 billion a year since 2013. We’ve seen cuts to education, particularly in the UNC System, as well as in environmental protections, emergency services, social services and healthcare, film incentives and other essential government functions.

But this what Republicans are supposed to do: Shrink government and balance budgets.

The news comes at a time when state Republicans have for years been preoccupied with social issues, power grabs and political schemes that flirt with the lines of legality. So in its way, it’s refreshing to see a bedrock tenet of traditional Republicanism made apparent by this General Assembly.

But then, we didn’t elect them, did we? They locked in their power after 2010 through extreme, election-proof gerrymandering. In that sense, nothing they do holds legitimacy. A measly $125 seems like a short payoff.

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