Chris Malone, a Republican member of the N.C. House of Representatives, took a pretty standard tactic of accusing his Democratic opponent of having raised taxes in a recent mailer.
Many races for seats in the North Carolina General Assembly are not very closely contested, as we found in a Mostly True fact-check about gerrymandering.
But Malone’s is. John Wynne, a conservative analyst for the website PoliticsNC, rates the district as "leans Republican."
Malone faces Democratic challenger Terence Everitt in House District 35, which represents the suburbs in northeastern Wake County. Malone’s mailer is clearly aimed at parents who might still be feeling the pinch of their back-to-school shopping bills.
"Terence Everitt raised taxes on clothing, school supplies – even baby diapers!" declares the mailer, sent to homes in the area. "That’s right. As a member of the Wake County Transit Advisory Committee, Everitt engineered a $78.5 million tax increase. Not one cent of his tax increase will even go to our schools! We can’t trust Terence Everitt!"
Everitt has never held elected office before, so we were intrigued by the claim that he "raised taxes on clothing, school supplies – even baby diapers!"
This isn’t the only controversial mailer that Malone has sent out. He has also called for the repeal of the controversial "bathroom bill" HB2 – in a mailer paid for by the North Carolina Republican Party, which raised some eyebrows. The tax mailer we’re looking into now was also funded by the NCGOP.
Local government 101
There are multiple problems with the mailer’s accusation.
The biggest is that the $78.5 million tax increase it references doesn’t actually exist.
The mailer is very specific on where it gets its claim, so we’ll break it down. City and county governments’ budget decisions are up to the elected officials. But for large or controversial projects, officials often let voters decide though a municipal bond referendum. It’s a community-wide vote to raise funds, which can be done by raising taxes, borrowing money or both.
State law since 2007 has allowed a handful of North Carolina’s largest counties to raise sales taxes by half a cent to fund mass transit programs. The Wake County Board of Commissioners decided it wanted to use the option, so it asked for volunteers to study transit plans.
Everitt was one of 72 people who ended up on the Wake Transit Advisory Committee. The county commissioners liked the committee’s plan, so they decided to let the county’s nearly 700,000 registered voters choose at the ballot box whether it’s worth a sales tax increase.
But that vote won’t happen until the same day that many of them will also be choosing between Malone and Everitt. So to say Everitt has already raised taxes is simply not true.
Malone did not respond to our request for comment.
The number Malone cited is right, for what it’s worth. If the bond does pass, it will raise the county’s sales tax rate from 6.75 percent to 7.25 percent. County estimates show that will bring in an estimated $78.5 million in its first year.
If it passes, Wake County residents will pay an additional 50 cents on every $100 in goods they purchase.
But wait…there’s more
We should also note the irony of Malone attacking an opponent for increasing sales taxes on school supplies.
Two years ago, state Republicans cut income tax rates and paid for it by broadening the sales tax base and eliminating some exemptions. We looked at some of the details in this Half True claim from Roy Cooper, the Democratic candidate for governor who said Gov. Pat McCrory raised taxes on the middle class "in 67 different ways."
One part of the new tax law was eliminating North Carolina’s tax-free, back-to-school-shopping weekend after 2013. From 2002 until that change, families shopping for school supplies such as clothes, laptops and binders could go to stores across the state on one particular weekend and pay no sales taxes.
North Carolina and Kentucky are now the only states in the Southeast without a tax-free weekend for back-to-school shopping. Although businesses fought its repeal, the state said doing so could mean $13.6 million extra in tax revenues.
Malone wasn’t in office when the legislature created the tax-free weekend. In 2013, he voted for the bill that eliminated it.
So if anyone in this race could be said to have raised taxes on clothing and school supplies, it would be Malone – not Everitt.
Chris Malone, a Republican member of the N.C. House of Representatives, said his Democratic challenger Terence Everitt "raised taxes on clothing, school supplies – even baby diapers!"
That’s not true. No one has raised these taxes, including Everitt. There will be a vote on whether to raise them, but it hasn’t happened yet.
This doozy of a mailer is dishonest in multiple ways. It’s too bad Malone can’t save money on a new pair of slacks during a tax-free weekend, since we rate this claim Pants On Fire.