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Voters, Candidates Speak Out on State Taxes and Spending

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RALEIGH — North Carolina's next governor will face a budget shortfall of almost $500 million. That is a major drop from the $700 million surplus Jim Hunt had at his disposal when he was re-elected four years ago.

How should the state raise and spend your taxes? Voters say they are not looking for major changes in the tax structure.

In aYour Voice, Your Vote poll, only 6 percent of those polled said taxes were the single most critical issue for the next governor to address.

A large majority said they would support higher taxes if the money were spent on improving teacher pay, helping poor school districts, better job training, better highways and enforcing environmental laws.

New tax dollars are needed, but where will we get them? Some say a net could be used to catch millions of tax dollars from Internet sales.

"I do not favor taxing the Internet proceeds right now," says Democratic candidate Dennis Wicker.

"I've thought about that a great deal, and I've come down on the side that I don't think we should tax products sold over the Internet," says Republican candidate Leo Daughtry.

"In taxation we ought to be interested in a level playing field, and what we are doing right now is encouraging people to avoid North Carolina taxes by going out and purchasing things over the Internet," says Republican candidate Chuck Neely.

Other proposals include raising the state tax on cigarettes, currently third lowest in the country, and cutting back on corporate incentives.

"About the most unfair thing we're doing is giving special incentives of tax dollars that are taken out of all of our hands and given to individual businesses," says Republican candidate Richard Vinroot.

"I argued the case before the North Carolina Supreme Court that allowed us to start using incentives in North Carolina, and to bring and keep good businesses here," says Democratic candidate Mike Easley.

"I think what we need to be careful about is balancing those kinds of incentives against those businesses and industries that are here, and those small businesses that are here who are paying the freight now," says Wicker.

There is also the continuing question of a state lottery. Opinions are split along party lines.

"No, I do not favor a lottery. I have a consistent record on opposing the lottery. It's a tax on poor people," says Daughtry.

"I am opposed to the establishment of a lottery in North Carolina," says Neely.

"I very much oppose a lottery ... I'm what you call a grown-up Baptist," says Vinroot.

"Right now, North Carolina is the only state that plays the lottery and gives away the proceeds," says Easley.

You can read more about the candidates' stance on taxes in Wednesday'sNews and Observer

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David Crabtree, Reporter
Keith Baker, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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