August 7, 2015

We’ve made this point before but it bears repeating. To win in 2016, Attorney General Cooper will follow Mike Easley’s winning formula from 2000-pitch a “One North Carolina” message of rural economic development to counties that feel left out of North Carolina’s economic comeback.

In 2014, Democrat Kay Hagan won overwhelming majorities in urban counties like Mecklenburg, Wake, Buncombe and Durham. But Thom Tillis clawed his way to Washington by winning big victories in suburban counties like Union and rural counties like Nash and Wayne. If Roy Cooper can cut into Republican margins in conservative suburban and rural counties, just like Easley did, he’ll have the election in the bag and he might take some Democrats into the Legislature with him.

Enter the compromise plan by conservative reformers in the State Senate to fix the inequities in sales tax allocation and economic incentives. Right now, most sales tax revenue goes to the county where the item was sold-giving shopping center counties like Mecklenburg and Durham the lion’s share of the money and leaving 80 other counties out in the cold.

The Senate wants to split the sales tax money 50/50 in their compromise plan. Right now, 80% of economic incentive grants go to a handful of urban areas. The Senate wants to provide more assistance to rural counties that have been left out.

North Carolina has the nation’s 3rd most improved job market in the last two years. Conservative reform works. But leaving some areas behind is dumb policy and politics. Allocating tax dollars on the basis of population instead of the number of shopping centers helps forgotten counties create the infrastructure for growth.

Just looking at the politics, the Senate’s compromise plan might be the last chance to stop Roy Cooper and the Democrats before they sweep to victory next year under the Easley “One North Carolina” strategy.