State of North Carolina vs. City of Wilmington and OPM

More evidence of too much government comes to us in a September Greater Wilmington (NC) Business Journal report by Jenny Callison about conflicts between state and municipal entities—involving other people’s money (OPM), of course. (

Recently, the North Carolina State General Assembly passed legislation that prevents local government from slapping an arbitrary tax on business people simply for the “privilege” of operating within its bounds of authority.

Ms. Callison writes: although the tax elimination “represents a bonus for owners, it puts the onus on cities and towns to make up that revenue elsewhere.” Callison, presumably a pro-business reporter, expressed a distorted view of the tax problem, in my opinion. First, getting rid of this tax relieves an unjustifiable burden on business owners; it’s not a “bonus” for them; as if they didn’t earn the confiscated money in the first place, and that officials benevolently gave it back.

Furthermore, it doesn’t put “the onus” on municipalities to get more money, it should put them on notice to reduce spending—always an option for government because of the vile habit of squandering the public’s money on pet projects.

Naturally, the local political class resents what they see as an intrusion on their authority to sock it to the cash-cow public to fund their irresponsible spending. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo bemoans a loss of $1.6 million that he can’t legally take from city business owners after next June.  Saffo and Council & Company see no end to spending OPM. They use it to enhance their power to provide “services” and aggrandize old downtown Wilmington.

But Saffo and his councilors have special talents—they presume to be visionaries. Of course, they need OPM to carry out their utopian projects. And they fear “another slice at the tax base,” writes Ms. Callison.

The new State tax code “reduces corporate and personal income tax rates.” Worse, Hiz Honor broods about the General Assembly’s plan to completely eliminate the State income tax. Horrors! How will the political class survive in this unproductive arts and crafts colony that, apparently, produces too little revenue for their wants?

Saffo turns this good news for all citizens on its head with the bizarre prediction: “we’re going to get a flood of retirees here…But we won’t have the money to provide the level of services they expect”—as if these mostly well-off people won’t be paying multiple local taxes. And, just what services will they expect Mr. Mayor?

Do you mean the heavily taxpayer-subsidized government golf courses, tennis courts, buses, trolleys, bike paths, senior “centers,” Airlie Gardens, a convention center, libraries, tourism offices and various associated bureaucracies—costing many millions of dollars—unneeded and unused by a large majority of our citizens?

Yes. It’s a tough political world out there, Mayor Saffo. But don’t you fret. The powerful statewide League of Municipalities along with local politically connected insiders will put the evil eye on the governor and State legislators to get their minds right about your wants. And, again, there will be no risk to the political class. You will continue to use other people’s money to strengthen your power—under the guise of providing “services.”


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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