The Sanford City Council’s business privilege tax has taken another hit this week in Sanford. Less than a week before crucial municipal elections that feature three candidates committed to addressing, and possibly reversing, the tax – one an incumbent, two who are challenging members who helped council member Steve Brewer pass it – the national grassroots organization “Americans for Prosperity” has announced that it’s organizing a Lee County chapter. In a press release, AFP says among the priorities of the group are helping to “secure the repeal of the new business privilege tax in Sanford.”
AFP has organized what it is calling a “press luncheon” Thursday at Sanford’s River Lodge restaurant to discuss its efforts. It begins at 12:30 p.m. Lloyd Jennings of Sanford is heading up the Lee County chapter. In the press release, Jennings said essentially what Mike Stone (who faces Lora Wright), Charles Taylor (facing incumbent Dan Harrington) and Earl Barker (up against incumbent Linwood Mann) have said throughout their respective campaigns: people are “tired of their voices being ignored by politicians.” Harrington and Mann voted with Brewer on the proposed tax earlier this year; Brewer, who worked feverish behind the scenes to promote the tax before it was voted upon, has mentored Lora Wright during her campaign against Stone and has been promoting her candidacy with, among other things, somewhat inaccurate e-mail messages to city employees and others in the community critical of Stone.
AFP doesn’t endorse candidates, but the Lee County chapter will “aggressively work to inform voters which candidates support the tax and which candidates are in favor of repealing the tax,” according to officials. In other words, you can expect it to do what it can to help Stone in his fight against Wright for the at-large city council seat.
AFP is an interesting organization. It’s a non-partisan, but decidedly Republican-leaning, group committed to educating the public about economic policy and mobilizing the citizenry to be advocates for good public policy. Its focus is on limited government and free markets on the local, state and federal issues. Among its goals, according to its website (www.americansforprosperity.org):
– A Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to protect the economic interests of citizens by making it harder to raise taxes and waste scarce tax dollars on frivolous programs.
– Cutting taxes and government spending in order to halt the encroachment of government in the economic lives of citizens by fighting proposed tax increases and pointing out evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse.
– Limiting taxation and spending to promote fiscal responsibility.
– Removing unnecessary barriers to entrepreneurship and opportunity by sparking citizen involvement in the regulatory process early on in order to reduce red tape.
– Restoring fairness to the judicial system by stemming the tide toward “over-criminalization” of economic activity spurred by over-active attorneys general.
AFP’s North Carolina organization recently mobilized efforts in Monroe to defeat a proposed food tax and is currently active in nearby Harnett and Chatham counties, fighting taxes that will appear on next Tuesday’s ballot.
It’ll be interesting to see what impact, if any, the Lee County chapter has on local policy, and how it will address the tax in Thursday’s meeting and moving forward. Any success or failure will largely depend on the job Jennings does and who wins the three seats up for grabs Tuesday.
The business privilege tax was proposed by then-city manager Leonard Barefoot this year as an alernative to increasing city property taxes. The Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce opposed its passage on the basis that it’s levied unfairly, and more than 5,000 people sign petitions opposing it.
Watch Friday’s Herald for a report from Thursday’s meeting.