The battle of the (wallet?) bulge

WNC’s Joe Sam Queen, state senator from District 47 (Avery, Haywood, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell and Yancey counties), says a campaign contribution made by a realtors’ political-action committee after he was elected is not the reason he opposes letting local voters decide whether to adopt a property-transfer tax in their counties. Quoted in The News and Observer yesterday, Queen (who’s pictured at right) explains that he sees home equity as “one of the three keys to prosperity” — the other two being “a good job and a sound education.” If approved at the state level, the local-option transfer tax would be applied as a percentage to property sales within counties whose voters give approval for its implementation.

Queen is not alone — neither in receipt of funds from development-oriented PACs nor in opposing the tax option for counties. The debate, which is stalling action on the $20 billion state budget, has reached a high profile recently, with Gov. Mike Easley joining House Democratic leaders in pressing the tax option to give counties with rapidly increasing populations another tool to pay for schools and infrastructure. But according to the N&O article, Queen and others in “swing” districts are reluctant to vote for a state budget containing the transfer-tax option at a time when their districts are targeted by realtor-funded “Fight the Home Tax” ads.

Supporters of the option, including municipal associations, road builders and general contractors, have also launched lobbying campaigns. But the financial edge goes to the realtors and home builders, whose PACs ranked first and second in campaign contributions during the last election (according to nonprofit research group Democracy North Carolina) to the tune of $816,000.

Cherokee County’s Sen. John Snow, who also opposes the option and who, according to the article, also received campaign money ($3,250) from the realtors’ PAC during the last election, credited the realtors and home builders for taking up a lot of the slack in his district caused by plant closings and a poor economy. And Rutherfordton Sen. Walter Dalton advocated separating the option from the budget bill for purposes of debate. Dalton, says the N&O, received $8,500 from the realtors PAC in 2006.

Nelda Holder, news and opinion editor


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