1/25/12 Perdue brushes off state Senate leader’s pitch for sales tax debate

Perdue brushes off state Senate leader’s pitch for sales tax debate
The Associated Press, The Times-News 1/25/12     
Reprinted with permission.

RALEIGH — The public chasm between the Democratic governor and the General Assembly remained deep Tuesday after she quickly dismissed an offer from Republican legislative leaders to debate her sales tax increase proposal.

   Senate leader Phil Berger invited Gov. Beverly Perdue to participate with him in a public forum on her plans released last week to offer a budget this spring that would raise sales taxes by three quarters of a cent. She said the money, which could be more than $800 million annually, would be dedicated to the state’s public education system to overcome spending cuts and job losses this year caused by the GOP penned budget.

   Republicans have panned her idea, which is similar to a plan Perdue offered in her budget last year when a penny increase on the sales tax was about to expire. Berger said the public would benefit greatly from a debate to hear what, if anything, had changed to require the increase now.

   “It’s important for the people of the state to hear in a joint presentation ... why she thinks more money, higher taxes, is the right answer at this time and why we think that not raising taxes is the right answer,” Berger, R-Rockingham, said at a news conference.

   “If there are questions out there, then let her ask the questions directly to me,” Berger added,“and give me an opportunity to ask her questions about her position.”HouseSpeakerThom Tillis,R-Mecklenburg, said soon after he would be glad to participate in a debate with Perdue.

   Within two hours of Berger’s offer, Perdue Press Secretary Chris Mackey called the requests “cheap stunts meant to distract attention from the damage” Republicans have done to North Carolina’s schools.