Raleigh, N.C. — As the state Senate's budget proposal rode roughshod over the day's news cycle, House leaders called a hasty news conference to attack Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper for speaking out against additional corporate tax cuts. But they stopped short of endorsing the Senate's ambitious tax cut plan.
Reps. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, and John Szoka, R-Cumberland, co-chairmen of the House Finance Committee, attacked the governor for claiming credit for two major job recruitment announcements this week while at the same time lobbying against additional cuts to the state's corporate income tax, already the 11th lowest in the country.
"The results speak for themselves," Szoka announced, crediting Republican legislative leaders for tax cuts of "$4 billion that taxpayers of this state have kept rather than paying for bloated services."
"Who should get the credit if there's credit to be had?" Szoka asked, accusing Cooper of decrying "corporate giveaways" while touting new jobs that were made possible in part by incentives like the Job Development Investment Grant program.
"I call on Gov. Cooper to join us," he said. "Stop the doublespeak and get on board."
"I'm glad to see his change of attitude that he's willing to use [corporate giveaways] to bring jobs," Brawley echoed.
But when asked if the House would therefore support the Senate's proposal, which would include a cut in the corporate tax rate from 3 percent to 2.5 over the next two years, House leaders hedged.
"We will complement it while recognizing there are improvements to be made," Brawley answered wryly.
"We certainly like their tax package. It brings forth a number of ideas," replied fellow Finance Co-chairman Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln. "Now, where we get to in this budget negotiation process, who knows. Somewhere in the middle, probably."
"I don't think anyone standing here is for more taxes," Saine added. "It's a nice opening. It's a nice way to open the conversation."
Szoka and Brawley also pushed back against "left-wing think tanks" that say tax cuts to date have done more to help the wealthy than the working class.
"We're accused of not caring about people who earn less income," Szoka said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. Our tax cuts have been well thought-out to benefit all North Carolinians."
Asked whether restoring the child care tax credit, proposed by Cooper, might be considered in the House's tax proposal, Saine was noncommittal.
"We're open to ideas," he said. "It's a matter of what we can afford and grow the economy in a reasonable way so that we don't overshoot and we don't undershoot. We've hit a nice sweet spot."
Asked what he would say to teachers calling for more per-pupil spending and to state retirees asking for a cost-of-living increase instead of additional tax cuts, Saine conceded that some groups might not be happy with the direction GOP leaders have taken on tax cuts.
"What we're doing is working," he added.
"You don't move a ship as big as the state of North Carolina in a quick fashion, and we also think that that's the right approach, not to do too much too fast," Saine said. "We certainly want to take all those concerns into consideration as we move forward."
The House is expected to start work on its revisions to the Senate's budget proposal next week.