North Carolina Judge Strikes Down Income Tax Cap Constitutional Amendment

February 26, 2019

Beginning in 2013, North Carolina adopted a series of tax and budget measures that have restrained annual spending growth and reduced the individual income tax rate from 7.75 percent to 5.499 percent in 2018 and 5.25 percent in 2019.

In 2018, the Republican-led Legislature voted to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot reducing the maximum income tax rate possible in the state, from the 10 percent then provided in the state constitution to 7 percent. After the House voted 73 to 45 and the Senate voted 34 to 13 to put it on the ballot, voters went on to approve it, 57 percent to 43 percent.

On Friday, however, Wake County Superior Court Judge G. Bryan Collins ruled the amendment (and another one relating to requiring ID from voters) is invalid because the state legislature itself is gerrymandered and “is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution.”

As The Charlotte Observer editorialized, the decision’s reasoning is unusual, catching most observers by surprise. The attorney who argued the case struggled through an NPR interview explaining why the amendments were invalid but all the laws passed in recent years by the legislature remain valid.

An appeal is likely.

The case is North Carolina NAACP v. Moore, 18-CVS-9806 (Wake County Superior Court).

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