A bill calling for a November referendum on whether Durham County can collect a 1 percent tax on prepared meals and beverages passed its third reading in the House this afternoon, meaning it will now move to the Senate for consideration.
The bill passed by a narrow 60-59 margin.*
It met stiff opposition from anti-tax groups, primarily Americans for Prosperity.
The matter had been a source of local controversy for years because Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, opposed the tax on the grounds that he believed it would disproportionately impact the poor.
He finally relented earlier this year and agreed to join other local lawmakers in introducing a bill that would allow Durham County voters to decide if they want the tax.
The millions in new revenues would be used to pay mainly for cultural amenities.
Alan Delisle, Durham's economic director, said the tax "would be a major funding source" for a proposed Minor League Baseball "fan experience" museum.
It's a dream project for Delisle and other city leaders that would leverage the popularity of the classic movie "Bull Durham" into a unique tourist draw. Minor League Baseball already has plans to operate the renovated Durham Athletic Park as a training area for umpires and other officials.
* This corrects vote tally. First post said it was 62-56, but that was the vote on the second reading.