Last updated: June 18. 2014 12:49PM - 304 Views
A Daily Journal editorial

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You’ve undoubtedly heard the expression, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” You can often see the evidence for that statement at antique shops and yard sales.

Here’s one saying you might not be familiar with: “My tax credits are good, while everyone else’s tax credits are a waste of taxpayer money.”

OK, it’s probably not a saying at all, but we certainly know many people believe this.

The two statements are now linked because of a debate going on in the North Carolina General Assembly.

Since gaining control of the legislature, Republicans have made tax reform a priority. They have been aggressively chopping rates and going after loopholes and tax credits. They have expanded categories covered by sales taxes while trimming income tax rates.

In the rush to reform, sometimes — to use another saying — the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. That seems to have been the case for the tax credit program targeting historic preservation projects.

Through the years, tax credits have been used to renovate and repurpose older structures in cities across the state. Perhaps property owners could use this valuable resource to restore some of downtown Rockingham’s againg and long-vacant downtown buildings to their former glory.

The credits helped developers make economic sense out of investing money into older buildings that still had life in them.

Without these credits, developers have a hard time justifying presrvation as opposed to demolishing old buildings. Renovation can often cost more than new construction.

But the state’s tax credit program expires this year. When the state Senate passed its version of the budget, the historic credit program wasn’t included, effectively allowing it to die.

The Senate bill alarmed many in the historic preservation community throughout the state. When the House passed its version of the budget, it included an amendment to keep the historic tax credit going through 2019.

Good news for the preservationists. But not the final word on the issue.

The two budget plans contain a number of differences. In the end, there can only be one plan. The separate versions now are at the mercy of a conference committee made up of both House and Senate members.

The conference members will have to iron out differences and (gasp!) even make compromises. The question is whether they can come to a consensus over these tax credits, or whether the whole matter falls victim to expedient bargaining.

We believe keeping this tax credit makes sense in the long run. It just may be a catalyst for growth in downtown Rockingham.

The credit means less tax revenue initially, but the renovations bring jobs and — over time — more revenue. After all, the tax income from abandoned buildings doesn’t compare to renovated structures given new tenants and vitality.

We call on our legislative delegation to work for a compromise budget that includes this economic development tool. There are still treasures to be found in Rockingham and throughout the Tar Heel State. Let’s give them a chance to be converted from today’s trash.

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