Greensboro News-Record cautions North Carolina legislators on restraining cities

Asheville leaders raised the alarm that pending legislation in the North Carolina General Assembly severely cuts revenue for cities — so harshly that heavy service cuts may be needed to compensate. Meanwhile, recent jobs and economic reports note Asheville and other metro areas of the state as having the lowest unemployment rates and being, in general, North Carolina’s economic engines.

The Greensboro News-Record editorial board made these comments on April 10:

Setting uniform taxes and fees across the state may be helpful for businesses, but it fails to recognize local conditions that might justify special licensing requirements and fees. And, when all the revenue flows to state government, there’s concern about the hole in city and county coffers. Those taxes, after all, also offset the cost of providing services to local businesses.

Some state legislators, especially those from rural areas, may not fully appreciate the contributions cities make to the state’s economy. The metro areas — primarily Charlotte and the Triangle — account for most of the growth in jobs and gross domestic product in North Carolina. Yet the legislature is trying to restrain them in a number of ways, including annexation restrictions, tax policy and, if some proposals are enacted, their ability to use economic incentives to attract new businesses. Initiatives are under way to transfer ownership of Asheville’s water system and Charlotte’s airport to regional authorities. Even in relatively small matters, such as enforcing aesthetic zoning rules or increasing a vehicle registration fee to pay for mass transit, the legislature doesn’t support local governments. It seems to want tighter control over local revenues and decision-making, setting policies that apply equally to Greensboro, Greenville or Greene County, as if their needs and interests are all the same.

Concerns might be exaggerated, but the wise will keep watch.


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