Local Politics

Realtors to pump $10M into transfer tax fight

Realtors want the land transfer tax option taken away from counties, even though there seems to be little chance voters will ever approve one.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina Association of Realtors has committed $10 million to its crusade against a tax on real estate sales.

Last year, state lawmakers gave counties two options to raise revenue to pay for growth-related needs like new schools, wider roads and extended water and sewer lines. One was a quarter-cent local sales tax, and the other was land transfer tax of 0.4 percent of the sale price of homes and land.

Voters in 19 counties overwhelmingly rejected the transfer tax at the polls in November and May – one county turned back the tax twice.

Despite its seeming unlikely to be approved, Realtors want the transfer-tax option taken away from counties, and they are banking a $10 million fund to accomplish that goal.

"It takes resources in order to educate the public about this issue, and the more the public knows about this issue, the less they like it," said Tim Kent, chief executive of the North Carolina Association of Realtors.

A bill that would repeal the tax option passed the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday afternoon and appeared to be picking up momentum before a vote in the full Senate.

"Although it is a vote of the people, they don't like that hanging over them. Therefore, I think it needs to be repealed," said Sen. David Hoyle, D-Gaston, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Armed with "Say No to the Home Tax" stickers, Realtors patrolled the hallways of the Legislative Building on Wednesday, courting lawmakers friendly to their cause.

A similar repeal effort failed in the House, but Realtors said they hope it will be revisited there.

"The craziest thing that you can do is add additional costs to owning a house," said Rep. Dan Blue, D-Wake.

The state association and its local affiliates spent an estimated $1 million in the past year for ads and lobbying efforts to fight the tax.

County advocates complained that Realtor money has already helped kill the tax option 20 times.

"I'm a little bit surprised that they are, in fact, using a nuclear bomb to kill a fly," Rebecca Troutman, government relations director for the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, said of the $10 million war chest.

Without revenue options, Troutman said, delayed school projects will hurt the same people fighting the transfer tax.

"If these monies aren't in place to do infrastructure, that means you can't have the building boom that we've had in the past," she said.