Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Home loan forgiven? It may count as income

The debate in the N.C. Senate Wednesday was on what's been called the "gas tax bill." Whether it cuts the tax (as Republicans say) or raises it (as Democrats say) depends on how you look at it. But another part of the bill appears to be more clear. It's one that could affect thousands of N.C. homeowners.

A section of the bill dealing with income tax changes would require taxpayers to count as income any portion of their mortgage indebtedness forgiven by a lender.

Take somebody who owed $200,000 on a home and had been caught up in the mortgage meltdown. Say the lender forgave $50,000 of the loan. Under the bill, that $50,000 would be counted as taxable income in North Carolina. The Internal Revenue Service would not count it.

Democratic Sen. Joel Ford of Charlotte tried to remove it from the bill, and leave state law conform to federal law.
"We should provide the same tax relief to North Carolina taxpayers and put more money in pockets," he said. "Not conforming to the federal law on this amounts to kicking a person when they're down.”
For procedural reasons, Ford's proposed amendment never came up for a vote.
Democrats say up to 4,000 people could be affected. Legislative staffers estimate the change would result in $14 million in revenue for the state.
The Senate tentatively passed the bill 36-14 along part lines. Final approval is expected Thursday before it would head to the House.
Republicans say the gas tax bill, by the way, would ensure money for road building and maintenance. By setting a floor for the tax (35-cents a gallon) it would result in another $352 million for roads over five years.    

Friday, January 23, 2015

Revealed at last: N.C.'s vast left-wing network

Bob Orr

According to the conservative Civitas Institute, they're part of the "vast, shadowy network" that makes up "the radical liberal left in North Carolina."

They’re named in the institute’s latest project, "Mapping the Left," a list of 140 organizations and 1,800 individuals "working to enlarge state government and erode our freedoms."

Just who are these radicals?

Well, people like former Tar Heels Coach Dean Smith, who sat on the board of an anti-death penalty group. Some are Republicans like former gubernatorial candidates Bob Orr and Chuck Neely and state Rep. Chuck McGrady.

Then there’s former Gov. Jim Hunt and his wife, Carolyn; Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter, former Mayor Harvey Gantt and former Mecklenburg commissioners Chair Jennifer Roberts.

Some are in high positions: state Treasurer Janet Cowell and state Auditor Beth Wood. And some come from business, like former textile executive Crandall Bowles.

Most are on the boards of groups that the institute defines as having liberal agendas, such as the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club. Or they’re associated with funding such groups. That’s how The Foundation for the Carolinas (along with CEO Michael Marsicano), Food Lion Charitable Foundation and the Gannett Foundation all made the list.

"Mapping the Left was created to educate citizens and policy makers," the web site says. "It is a repository of vital information that exposes the largest funders and participants in today’s North Carolina political battles to public scrutiny."

The map consists of a giant web of interconnecting lines and circles. Susan Myrick, an election policy analyst with Civitas, said the point is to show who runs, funds and works for the groups she claims makes up North Carolina’s left.

Are the people on the list dangerous radicals?

"No but they’re people with an agenda," Myrick said. "Just like the right are people with an agenda. What makes the right different than the left? (The left) is so massive …

"It's easy for people to see the organizational network on the right because it's so small. But when we turn a light on the left, they're uncomfortable. I don't get it. People should know who they are."

Who they are are people like Orr, a former N.C. Supreme Court Justice who later ran the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law which, like Civitas, is funded largely by the Pope Foundation. Orr made the list because he’s on the board of The Conservation Trust of North Carolina.

"I'm a strong believer in land conservation and historic preservation," Orr says. "On the other hand I've won four statewide elections as a Republican. I don't think anybody over at Civitas has even run for office."

Neely, a Raleigh lawyer, was asked in an email how he felt being on the leftist list, replied succinctly:

"I have always suspected me," he wrote.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

AP story becomes fodder for Pat McCrory fundraising appeal

N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory's office hit back Wednesday after an Associated Press story reported that he had taken what it described as ethically questionable payouts from an online mortgage company, of which he was a director.

His campaign hit back too -- with a fundraising letter.

"We need your help," the campaign emailed supporters. "The media is at it again. This time it's the Associated Press. Yesterday they released a story attacking the Governor with false claims and innuendo made by anonymous people with no regard to the facts....

"Help Governor McCrory fight back and ensure that the citizens of North Carolina know the real story. Donate today ..."

The appeal was signed by "Team McCrory."

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest ramps up 2016 campaign

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is pushing his re-election campaign into a higher gear with a Thursday night fundraiser in Charlotte.

Forest's fundraiser will be at the Morehead Inn. Sponsors include former lawmaker Ed McMahan, former GOP mayoral candidate Edwin Peacock and Catawba County beer distributor Dean Proctor.

Spokesman Hal Weatherman says the event is the first event in a concerted push to get ready for the 2016 campaign. Forest had just over $20,000 in his campaign account at the end of June.

"We're completely focused on running for re-election," Weatherman said.

Forest has deep Charlotte ties. He's the son of Sue Myrick, the former mayor and longtime member of Congress. He grew up in town and attended McClintock Middle School and East Mecklenburg High. As a teen, he moved to Columbia but eventually returned and studied architecture at UNC Charlotte.

His fundraiser comes the same week another Charlottean, Gov. Pat McCrory, released a video that effectively kicks off his own re-election campaign.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Jennifer Roberts gets a jump on mayoral race

Democrat Jennifer Roberts is getting a headstart on next year's mayoral race -- and on her neighbor -- with a Wednesday night fundraiser.

Roberts is the former Mecklenburg commissioners' chair who announced for mayor in May. She also lobbied city council members for the job after the resignation of Patrick Cannon, who last month entered federal prison for corruption.

Roberts lost out to fellow Democrat Dan Clodfelter, who happens to live two doors from her on Clement Avenue.

Roberts' had already raised more than $59,000 through June. Her Wednesday night fundraiser at Chima Brazlian Steakhouse is attracting some prominent Democratic donors, and at least one Republican.

Names on the invitation include longtime donor Sarah Belk Gambrell, former Charlotte Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler, businessman Bertram Scott, restaurateur Stefan Latorre and lawyer Bill Diehl. There's also attorney Scott Syfert, a Republican.

Dan McCorkle, Clodfelter's longtime campaign manager, said he expects the mayor to file papers this week for a new committee. That would allow him to raise money for an expected mayoral run. A former state senator, he could transfer $42,000 from his state account to a local committee.

Clodfelter and Roberts could be joined in a race by one or more City Council Democrats.

"I think the party’s pretty split at this point," says Liz Johnson, a former county Democratic chair and a Roberts supporter. "But I think Jennifer maybe has shown proven leadership for a longer period of time and has a style a good number of people are comfortable with.”

Friday, November 21, 2014

In speaker's race, Leo Daughtry hopes second time's the charm

The last time Republican Rep. Leo Daughtry ran for N.C. House speaker, it precipitated one of the biggest legislative upheavals in state history.

Now the Smithfield lawyer is running again. He's one of six GOP lawmakers in a race that House Republicans will decide Saturday at a meeting in Asheboro.

In November 2002, Republicans had just won a slim, 61-59 majority in House elections. A split GOP caucus nominated Daughtry for speaker. Not everybody was happy.

Critics, led by GOP Rep. Richard Morgan, continued to criticize Daughtry while scheming with Democratic leader Jim Black. With the caucus still divided in late January, Daughtry stepped aside in the name of unity. Republicans chose veteran Republican George Holmes as would-be speaker.

But the bottom was falling out for Republicans. Rep. Michael Decker made a surprise party shift, giving Democrats one more vote. And Morgan cut a deal with Black that made them co-speakers and sparked a long-running feud within the Republican Party.

Turned out Black had given Decker cash, campaign contributions and favors to switch parties. Both would go to prison on federal corruption charges. Morgan became a pariah to many Republicans and lost his seat in a 2006 GOP primary.

Monday, November 17, 2014

White smoke for House Republicans Saturday?

Republican House members gather in Asheboro Saturday to pick a new leader, a process that one legislator compares to another celebrated conclave.

"It's like electing a Pope in the Sistine Chapel," says Rep. Charles Jeter, a Huntersville Republican. "You cast secret ballots. Nobody knows how you vote.

"The only thing is, we don't put up white smoke when we're done."

Six Republicans, including three from the greater Charlotte area, are running to replace GOP Speaker Thom Tillis, who was elected to the U.S. Senate. Republicans will meet at Randolph County Community College Saturday to nominate a candidate for speaker and elect other caucus leaders.

Running for speaker are Republican Reps. Tim Moore of Kings Mountain, John Blust of Greensboro, Justin Burr of Albemarle, Leo Daughtry of Smithfield,  Bryan Holloway of King and Mitchell Setzer of Catawba.

Like the cardinals in Rome, Republicans may have to go through several ballots before anyone gets the 38 votes needed. The winner would face a vote of the full House in January, though with 74 votes, a GOP candidate with broad party support will be the odds-on favorite.

Jeter is among other Republicans running for leadership positions. A candidate for GOP conference leader, a job that would give him oversight of the next elections, he's the only one running unopposed.

For Jeter, re-elected this month with 52.5 percent of the vote, that's welcome news.

"I'm certainly grateful that my election is unopposed," he says. "Being in a Democratic district where you're always going to be opposed, (it's nice) to finally be in an election unopposed."