Raleigh, N.C. — House and Senate Democrats held a Tax Day press conference Wednesday to criticize the 2013 Republican tax overhaul and to pledge to work to change it.
The event was the final stop of what Progress NC, a left-leaning group, is calling the "Tax Hike Truth Tour," a campaign that's been traveling around the state during the last week criticizing Republican leaders for, they say, helping the wealthy at the expense of lower- and middle-class earners.
"This year, families across the state are feeling for the first time an added burden in their wallets," said Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue.
Blue, D-Wake, said the Republican-penned overhaul "gave billions of dollars in tax handouts to big corporations and the wealthiest individuals while raising taxes on lower- and working-class families."
"A working family in North Carolina can't get a break, not a tax break anyway," agreed House Minority Leader Larry Hall, saying that two-thirds of the benefit of the 2013 tax reform goes to taxpayers making nearly seven figures.
"Over $900,000 a year, you're getting a tax break. Working families can barely make it from paycheck to paycheck," said Hall, D-Durham.
The event featured three taxpayers who said they had seen their state tax bills increase substantially because of the overhaul.
Ken Cowick, 75, said his state tax liability had gone from $251 for 2013 to $1,380 for 2014 – a 456 percent increase – largely due to the loss of a deduction for medical expenses and a personal deduction. He said his income had increased only by 1 percent.
"It's pretty significant for someone who's living on Social Security, pensions and some investments to find that you now are paying over $100 a month on your state taxes," Cowick said. "If we would have known of the additional changes that were going to take place before we filed our taxes this year, I think the election last fall would have been very different."
Lewise Busch, who lives with her husband in a continuing care community in Chapel Hill, said their state tax liability went from $0 for 2013 to $999 for 2014.
"I hope [the increases] really were not intended," Busch said. "I hope the legislature will right this wrong."
Joyce Adams, a farm and small-business owner in Willow Springs, said the loss of the farm machinery tax credit was a difficult blow for her struggling business, as was the loss of the $50,000 exemption for small-business income.
Republican authors of the overhaul say taxpayers across all income brackets should be paying less, but they've also consistently noted that there would "winners and losers" in each group.
However, a nonpartisan staff analysis of the tax changes distributed Wednesday by Senate leaders shows upper-income earners are consistently more likely to be winners. In a comparison of the effects of the changes on different filers in a variety of tax brackets, filers making $250,000 or more saw the biggest tax cut – in both numbers and percentages – in all but one case.
The state Republican Party, which has been attacking Progress NC on political grounds, did so again after the event, but did not offer a response to the taxpayers featured in the event as requested by WRAL News.
"It is clear that overall taxes are lower, and the Democrat party and Progress NC have zero credibility on this issue," said NCGOP director Todd Poole.