Local conservatives defended the actions of the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly with a "tax reform rally" on Wednesday touting the legislature's accomplishments.
The North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a nonprofit advocacy group backed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, held an event in Raleigh billed as a celebration of legislation passed by the assembly last year that overhauled the state's tax regime.
The tax reform bill deprived North Carolina of an estimated $600 million in annual revenue by giving an income tax break of $2,434 to a family of four making $250,000 a year -- a similar family making just $20,000 saves only $3 a year, according to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. North Carolina families with annual incomes below $84,000 will on average see higher taxes when the bill's impact is combined with the legislature's elimination of the state's Earned Income Tax Credit and increased sales taxes, according to data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and the North Carolina Justice Center.
Americans for Prosperity may have hoped to demonstrate that there is grassroots support for the legislature's actions. The event Wednesday looked like anything but an equivalent of a Moral Monday protest, however: there was no civil disobedience as a few dozen attendees sat, subdued. And there were no fiery speeches by the state's NAACP leader -- attendees enjoyed speakers like conservative commenter and journalist Tucker Carlson.
State Republicans had been dismissive of the Moral Monday protests, but may have thought that an event to push back on the movement's policy criticisms was necessary.
In the same week, 14 protesters affiliated with the state's Moral Monday movement were arrested for staging a sit-in at Speaker Thom Tillis' office to draw attention to the legislature's refusal to expand Medicaid, support for hydraulic fracking, cuts to unemployment benefits, freezes to teacher pay, cuts to public education and laws implementing voter identification and restricting abortion access.
Last year's Moral Monday protests led to more than 900 total arrests, with some events drawing more than 10,000 people to the State Capitol.
Americans for Prosperity's announcement that it will also run television ads promoting the tax law may indicate a desire to prop up Tillis, the GOP's Senate nominee, by influencing how voters judge the law's impact as he works to unseat Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).
This article initially cited analysis from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. The Washington Post determined that the analysis failed to note that increases in the tax burden on those earning less than $84,000 a year was an average. This article has been updated accordingly.