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Municipal officials meet with legislators, state leaders at Town Hall Day 

by Jessica Wells, League Communications Specialist

About 500 elected officials, municipal staff and guests came to Raleigh March 18 to meet with their legislators at Town Hall Day, the League’s largest annual legislative event.

"Today is a day when we can all make a difference," League President and Burlington Mayor Ronnie Wall said. "It’s a day when we can show that we are united in pursuing policies that benefit residents of towns and cities throughout North Carolina."

The day started at the Quorum Center with a legislative briefing by the League’s Governmental Affairs team. Director of Governmental Affairs Rose Vaughn Williams gave attendees tips on working with legislators and gave an overview on the key municipal advocacy goals: finding replacement revenue for the Privilege License Tax, supporting bills that shore up transportation funding and preserving the historic preservation tax credit.

"Remember that you’re on their turf and to be respectful," Williams said. "Your enemy today might be your ally tomorrow."

Several members attended the North Carolina chapter of the American Planning Association’s Great Places recognition event held in conjunction with Town Hall Day in the Legislative building’s press room. Asheboro, Belmont, Goldsboro, Kinston, New Bern, Roanoke Rapids and West Jefferson were all honored for their Great Place award-winning towns.

After the briefings and recognition event, attendees boarded a shuttle to the General Assembly for one-on-one meetings with their legislators.

Attendees then gathered in the Legislative Building’s auditorium to hear from North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger and North Carolina Speaker of the House Tim Moore. Both legislators talked about issues under consideration in the Senate and House respectively touching on the League’s key municipal goals.

Moore said decisions were yet to be made on replacement revenue for the Privilege License Tax, which was repealed last session, and sales tax allocation adjustments. However, the House is making headway on economic development initiatives and transportation funding.

"We want to make sure with transportation funding that we’re doing it based on sound policy and not politics," Moore said. "We’re listening to what local governments say back home. If you like what we’re doing, tell us. If you don’t like what we’re doing, tell us that, too."

Berger echoed Moore’s comments on the privilege license tax adding that he does not support extending the historic preservation tax credit sunset date. Instead, he said the Senate hopes to create a grant program for those projects similar to the program created for film and television production.

"There are a lot of important issues that sit at the intersection of state and local government, and, in many instances, those are things we will agree on. I can tell you that when the League and many of you began the process of calling the General Assembly indicating the importance of maintaining roads and protecting Powell Bill dollars for municipalities it was extremely important and greatly appreciated," Berger said. "Having said that, there are things we are not going to agree on, but I think it’s important for us to have a dialogue."

However, Governor Pat McCrory, NC Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata and NC Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz expressed a different perspective on the historic preservation tax credits during a panel discussion at the North Carolina Museum of History.

"If you hear that we don’t have tax credits anymore, that’s not true. We do have some exceptions that are unique to North Carolina – research, NASCAR, airport – I’m supporting those," McCrory said. "They do cost money, but the unique thing about the historic tax credit is we get a net return on that investment."

When McCrory appointed his cabinet, he tasked them with making their department goals translate to economic development and job creation, and Kluttz said she doesn’t see a more worthy cause than fighting for the historic preservation tax credit.

She’s in the midst of a statewide tour promoting the credits, and if she hasn’t been to your city yet, she said she’s coming.

“People know that things have gotten better since the 90s, but they don’t know why. They don’t know the tax credits are involved,” Kluttz said. “We celebrate the potential. I’ve been to 30 cities in North Carolina, and I haven’t found one yet that doesn’t have potential.”

Since beginning the tour, she’s been invited to 15 additional cities, and the League has helped arrange some of those stops.

I want to say a very special thank you to the League. You all have supporters of what we are doing with this effort. So thank you to the League and Governor McCrory. We are so fortunate to have a governor who’s been a mayor – who gets it and understands that it’s critical that these taxes come back.”

Her message is clear on the tour: let your legislators know the historic preservation tax credits are important for every city and town in North Carolina.

“This is our history. Every single historic building is part of the North Carolina story. It tells the story of textiles, manufacturing, furniture, tobacco – it’s going to be lost. We can’t wait another year,” she said. “Every day that these buildings stay empty is another day that they may not be able to be brought back.”