After approving spending $64,000 in local money Monday night to match what the state put up to bring Global Packaging to Hamlet, commissioners admonished their state legislators to fight to keep the pipeline open. Their message was heard.
Both N.C. Sen. Bill Purcell and N.C. Rep. Ken Goodman voted and argued against a cost-saving measure the new General Assembly approved to take money from various funds to put against next year’s shortage of cash. This week, they said that struggle will continue.
Purcell called the controversial measure “one of the worst pieces of legislation he’s ever seen,” and both he and Goodman predicted a gubernatorial veto.
Friday, County Commission Chairman Kenneth Robinette emphasized the fact the county has had success using incentives and tax credits to create jobs and investment, as well as to be able to afford the infrastructure to make industry announcements possible.
“This is something that’s proven - it’s not something you think might happen,” he explained. “This isn’t smoke-and-mirrors; it works. It’s something that has happened, and without that money we couldn’t have gotten those jobs to Richmond County.”
Goodman said he used the analogy of “sin” as he argued against the measure in the House Appropriations Committee.
“They claim that they are only doing this one year, but I made the argument during the appropriations session that it’s a lot like sinning,” he said. “It’s kind of hard the first time, and you feel really bad afterwards. Then, the next time it gets a little easier to do.”
He said the funds that were taken were non-recurring, and don’t represent any structural change in the way the state spends money.
“Whose to say that if the budget has a shortfall again next year, they wouldn’t come back and take it away again,” Goodman said. “And it may take a little while for the economy to get back on track.”
Purcell said it sends a message to potential industries that would relocate in North Carolina that it might not go to the same lengths it has in the past to sweeten the pot for potential employers.
“If this continues, South Carolina and Virginia are going to eat our lunch,” he said.
Both Purcell and Goodman pointed to incentives as tax credits as necessary evils to be competitive in the economic development field.
“It’s kind of like nuclear weapons,” Goodman said. “Nobody likes nuclear weapons, but nobody’s asking for the United States to unilaterally disarm. In a perfect world there would be no incentives, but there are 49 other states that are offering them so we have to in order to remain competitive.”
At stake are not only incentives and tax credits, however, but funding for infrastructure and quality of life projects the state has traditionally helped local governments to fund.
“You take Rockingham for example, and everything they’ve done with their wastewater,” Robinette said. “A poor, rural county like us, or neighboring counties, could never afford to pass those costs onto our water customers and our taxpayers. If we do that, we’re out of the (economic development) game.”
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 15, or by e-mail at email@example.com.