Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — The North Carolina House of Representatives yesterday tentatively approved another $20 million for the One North Carolina Fund, which Gov. Mike Easley uses to help seal economic development deals with businesses moving or expanding in the state.
The governor has run the fund dry since it was allocated $15 million in the 2001 session of the General Assembly.
“We have to replenish this,” said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, who sponsored the “emergency” legislation and warned that the state’s neighbors “would love to see us not pass this right now.” He claimed that without the new appropriation, “we’re out of business.”
The bill also called for $4.1 million for job training in the state’s community college system.
“The emergency appropriation for the One North Carolina Fund is critical to bring jobs to the hard-working families of our state,” Easley said in a statement.
The House supported the bill on a 99 to 14 vote, which came on the heels of a Carolina Journal report that large companies are now banding together to learn how to extract as much public incentives money as possible from elected officials. Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, opposed the legislation and cited the Ernst & Young presentation that served as the basis for the CJ article.
Stam explained that the presentation, titled “Turning Your State Government Relations Department from a Money Pit into a Cash Cow,” was used to teach large companies how to get more incentives dollars from states. He told his fellow legislators that they are “the udder” of the “cash cow.”
Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, attempted to get the appropriation for the fund reduced to $10 million, citing other more urgent budget needs. He also based his proposed amendment on the findings of a joint legislative committee, which recommended the lesser amount. Luebke said he also observed the day before when it was debated and passed in a House Appropriations committee meeting.
“I was not persuaded that $20 million was necessary,” he said.
Luebke’s amendment failed on an 86 to 24 vote. Minimal debate ensued, when Rep. Jennifer Weiss, D-Wake, said she could have supported $10 million but not the $20 million.
“We were down here, I thought, to be fiscally responsible,” she said. “I think we’re falling over ourselves to say we’re for jobs.”
If the bill receives final approval in the House next week, the Senate will then consider it.
Paul Chesser is associate editor of Carolina Journal. Contact him at email@example.com.