Other Chamber priorities in the 2016 Legislative Agenda

Part 3 of a 4 part series

Maintain/Increase Tourism Funding

 With tourism being one of the mainstays of Carteret County’s economy, the Chamber encourages maintaining or increasing state funding to effectively market and promote North Carolina as a diversified vacation destination.

“We appreciate the $2 million bump in tourism funding that occurred in the 2015 legislative session, with much credit being given to Representative Pat McElraft for helping make it happen,” said Mary Carlyle Brown, Chair of the Chamber’s Public & Government Affairs Committee.

“We view travel and tourism funding as a wise and prudent investment in one of the state’s leading industries that will pay dividends in the form of revenue generated by travelers, vacationers and guests visiting North Carolina.”

The Chamber remains concerned about the stance taken by the Governor and the North Carolina Department of Commerce to insist on a “uniform state marketing and branding campaign.”

Chamber President Mike Wagoner contends that a “one-brand-fits-all approach” to economic development marketing and tourism promotion is ill-conceived.  The directive to promote North Carolina as a “great place to live, work and play” seems to disregard the word “visit.”

Wagoner said:  “Tourism branding is not the same as industrial recruitment branding.  The audience is different, the product is different and the message is different.  Tourism was the state’s only industry that grew during the recession.  Ideally, the state will invest more in the winning brand of “VisitNC.com” and not dilute its effectiveness.”

Maintain Current Distribution Formula for Sales Tax

The Chamber supports the current sales tax distribution formula used by the state to distribute sales tax revenues among the 100 counties, and we urge the General Assembly to resist any changes that place a greater emphasis on official “per capita” population estimates.

The current formula distributes sales tax 75 percent based on “point of delivery” and 25 percent based on “per capita.”

(The “per capita” distribution method includes permanent population only; it does not capture the significant economic contributions of tourists and second home owners, and is therefore harmful to Carteret County and other resort communities.)

Tourists and second home owners require significant local government services and make substantial contributions to the state and local economies.  A distribution formula based primarily on “point of delivery” is the only method that recognizes these service demands and economic contributions.  Therefore, the current formula is the only fair distribution method for Carteret County and other resort communities.

Oppose Increase in State Taxes

The Chamber believes that North Carolina should create a tax environment that provides a stable, predictable, competitive and equitable tax base.  As a rule, we oppose any legislation that would increase taxes on a statewide basis.

In general, the Chamber opposes taxes on services, because many service industries are composed largely of small businesses that contribute payroll taxes and provide thousands of jobs to North Carolinians.

The Chamber did not support the new sales tax law on “Repairs, Maintenance and Installations” on tangible personal property, which became effective March 1, 2016.  This law appears to be fraught with inconsistencies about which services are taxable and which are exempt.  It is unfortunate that legislators set themselves up to choose the winners and the losers within the business community.

Furthermore, the method of distribution of these new tax revenues appears to be contrary to the aforementioned formula, with the General Assembly allowing for a higher proportion of the newly generated sales tax funds to be set aside for poorer, more rural counties.  This apparent contradiction in policy should beseriously questioned and investigated by the General Assembly to ensure distribution of sales tax revenues is both fair and legal.

Similarly, the Chamber advocates the repeal of the sales tax that went into effect on January 1, 2014,applying to tickets for admission to live entertainment performances, museums, cultural sites, gardens, exhibits, shows and similar attractions or guided tours at those attractions.

Sales Tax Holidays

The Chamber supports the position of the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association to reinstate the Sales Tax Holidays on the first weekend of August.  Between 2002-13, consumers looked forward to three full days of tax-free shopping for selected items, including school supplies and clothing.  Local merchants successfully leveraged the Sales Tax Holidays to increase sales and profits. Let’s restore this popular shopping activity to stimulate local economies.

(Next time:  Beach nourishment and dredging issues of importance to our members.)