RALEIGH, NC (AP) – The current longest-serving member of the North Carolina House was stripped of its chairmanship of the powerful House Finance Committee on Tuesday.
Spokesman Tim Moore removed 17-year-old MP Julia Howard from the Tax Policy Committee and placed her on the Appropriations Committee according to a House Clerk’s Office document initialed by Moore.
Howard and Moore, both Republicans, have been in an unusually public feud over tax law for the past few days. In a statement emailed, Moore and two other Republican House leaders said Howard had been removed for failing to move the measure “quickly” by the committee against the will of the Chamber’s GOP caucus, though she was against the bill.
“While we respect different points of view, committee chairs must be ready to put personal agendas aside and advance the will of the caucus,” said Moore, spokeswoman for Pro Tempore Sarah Stevens and Majority Leader John Bell in the statement. Howard did not immediately respond to a call or text on Tuesday seeking comment.
Howard had criticized Moore and other Republicans in the House for supporting the move that would give additional state tax breaks to companies that borrowed federal funds to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Many members of the House of Representatives from both parties, including Moore, have also received loans for the Payroll Protection Program.
Howard, one of four high-ranking co-chairs of the committee through Tuesday, said last week she had been pressured by Republicans in the house to hear the bill on the committee. She told The News & Observer of Raleigh that the measure was an ethical conflict as her colleagues’ companies would benefit if the measure became law.
“I told the boys at the (Republican) caucus meeting, ‘I’m worried you shouldn’t be submitting bills if you take the money,” Howard told the newspaper.
Moore and other top Republicans disagreed and defended their legislative action. They said the General Assembly’s longstanding ethics rules generally allow them to participate in legislative action as the bill would apply equally to all PPP loan recipients. As of last August, more than 129,000 corporate loans were approved in North Carolina.
Before the removal was released, Moore told reporters Tuesday that he had made no comment on Howard’s allegations that she was pressured to act.
“The caucus saw this as a small business tax break,” he said, adding that voting “is no different than voting on … child tax credits when you have children.”
The legislation would align North Carolina’s tax laws more closely with federal regulations governing PPP loan income.
Companies that received the money and spent it under certain conditions canceled their loans. Current state law would exempt loan proceeds from taxable income, but would not allow a company to deduct the costs paid with the proceeds. The bill would include a state tax deduction.
Howard was one of two members of the House of Representatives who voted against the bill on the House floor last week.
On Tuesday, the on-site measure was changed to include loans received in 2020 and 2021 – not just 2020 – and to indicate that some unemployment benefits received by unemployed beneficiaries are also tax-free. Howard said she wanted these items to be considered. The bill is expected to come to a vote this week.