It's hard to explain the N.C. General Assembly's killing of historic preservation tax credits on simple philosophical or economic grounds. Since 1998, the credits have fostered $1.5 billion in investments in 2,300 projects in 90 of the state's 100 counties. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory is for them. Republican Secretary of Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz is for them. Scores of local officials are for them, even outraged at the potential loss of billions in investment while dooming the preservation of local landmarks.
Under the soon-to-die tax credits, owners of income-producing properties qualify for a 20% tax credit for approved renovations of historic structures. Non-income-producing properties, such as homes, qualify for a 30% tax credit. Income-producing properties can also receive a 20% federal credit. The credits have provided the final incentive for the revival of center-city buildings in towns and cities across the state. Look no farther than the Nash Street Lofts, which opened recently in downtown Wilson in a former retail building that was so far gone that it would have otherwise been razed.
So why would Republicans in the legislature want to eliminate the highly effective and private-investment catalyzing tax credits? After all, what could be more "conservative" than conserving historic buildings, converting structures that already exist instead of building anew?
I can only conclude that some members of the legislature have determined that historic preservation tax credits are a "liberal" cause. After all, liberals such as Jim Hunt, Betty McCain and Richard Moore supported the tax credits. And living downtown in old buildings with loft apartments is a youthful, Generation Y, liberal thing to do. These legislators would prefer to give tax breaks to cronies who run big corporations that pollute North Carolina's air and water, ravage natural beauty and abandon depleted buildings and towns.