BYH Zoning Commission. Take your chairs and sit in the field by Bostic Sugg in morning or afternoon and tell the...

NC politicians addicted to corporate tax breaks

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If there's one thing that can unite Republicans and Democrats in a polarized state legislature, it's handing out tax breaks to big corporations looking to move jobs to North Carolina.

Last week, the legislature agreed — for the second time this year — to increase the size of the corporate jackpot. The dollar figures approved just a few months earlier for "transformative" corporate relocations simply weren't generous enough.

You can't win a shiny corporate headquarters if you only cough up $6,500 per job, per year, lawmakers were told. So the honorables on Jones Street quickly agreed to more than double that figure to $16,000 per job, per year. The legislation was rushed through in a few short days, powered by claims that the unnamed Big Important Company would go somewhere else if they didn't get the money.

With so much generosity and haste, I figured we must be on the verge of something huge. Amazon had already turned North Carolina down, but maybe some other company was ready to bring 50,000 jobs? Maybe it would be Apple's new headquarters, which has promised up to 10,000 jobs?

Nope. The mystery company is Honeywell, a tech manufacturer that plans to relocate a couple hundred employees to Charlotte next year, with a promise to have 750 workers there by 2024.

Details of the state's incentives package hadn't been released as I write this, but the state money will come on top of $46 million in incentives from Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Regardless, it's a lot of money to fill a few floors of a high-rise office building.

Proponents of the increased incentives argue that these companies would go to another state if they don't get the money. They're right — competing states are turning incentives into an arms race, and if we don't pony up, someone else will.

Supporters also say North Carolina's incentives don't strain the state budget. Instead of an upfront payment, companies get repaid a percentage of the taxes they owe for newly created positions. The argument is that the state wouldn't get any of that tax revenue if the jobs went elsewhere, so even with tax breaks it's a net gain.

Rep. Jonathan Jordan, R-Ashe, isn't buying it. He led a odd mix of 21 of the most conservative House Republicans and two of the most liberal Democrats in opposing the incentives bill last week, calling it "one of the biggest corporate welfare and crony capital bills I think I've ever seen."

Jordan and others correctly pointed out that incentives are inherently unfair to small businesses. An auto repair shop won't get a tax break when it expands and hires three new mechanics. That shop owner's tax payments will fund some of the government services that Fortune 500 Honeywell gets for a discount.

But despite Republicans' opposition to "government handouts" and Democrats' opposition to "corporate tax giveaways," Jordan's views represent a small minority in the legislature.

That's because jobs announcements are like crack cocaine for politicians. The cost of incentives keeps going up, but so far there's been no amount too large. Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican legislative leaders are addicted to taking credit for new jobs. Ribbon cuttings and groundbreaking ceremonies are their Super Bowl.

These guys were willing to give $2 billion to Amazon, one of the wealthiest countries in the world. That's an insane amount equivalent to about 10 percent of the state budget.

It's time for our leaders to take a closer look at incentives — not just in a rushed legislative session when a particular company is on the line.

How much of a giveaway is too much? Should we direct more incentives to struggling rural communities instead of Charlotte and Raleigh, which will keep adding new jobs regardless? And if we keep handing out incentives like candy, can we also reward small businesses when they create jobs?

Colin Campbell is editor of the Insider State Government News Service. Follow him at NCInsider.com or @RaleighReporter. Write to him at ccampbell@ncinsider.com.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

February 17, 2019

If the most important factor determining the welfare of workers is the growth rate of the economy, that has policy implications that free-market conservatives, among others, will welcome.

Real, long-term economic growth is about investment, about both the amount invested and how skillfully it is…

john hood.jpg

February 17, 2019

Would you like to know why U.S. sanctions against companies owned by Russian billionaire and businessman Oleg Deripaska are being lifted?

You are the reason.

Me too.

And so is everybody else who lives and votes in North Carolina.

Last April, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against…


February 16, 2019

With confidence in government at record lows, where have all our leaders gone? Where is the James Madison of today, or the Thomas Jefferson, or even Everett Dirksen? He was the Republican leader who partnered with President Johnson to pass civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

These people were…


February 15, 2019

The proposed DMV move brings to mind one of the old Three Stooges comedies, the one where one of the zany trio says, “I’ve cut this board three times and it’s still too short.” Our state continues to take cuts at property decisions and keeps coming up short.

State political…

Tom Campbell

February 15, 2019

On Bleecker Street in Manhattan, you can find both a Planned Parenthood clinic and a boutique for pregnant women.

According to Vogue, the store, Hatch, "is arguably the first of its kind, in that it was designed specifically for pregnant shoppers: Changing rooms have a size chart to help you figure…


February 15, 2019

The decision by Virginia's top three elected officials to hunker down and cling to their jobs is bad for both the state and the Democratic Party. If they won't go, the only thing to do is investigate them all.

Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring have all…

Eugene Robinson

February 14, 2019

Of all the headlines about the scandals concerning the alleged past sins of one after another high official in Virginia, one struck me most poignantly. It was this, from the front page of The Washington Times:

"Democrats to vet candidates closely for secrets in past."

Maybe I have spent too much…

February 13, 2019

As our new legislative session fully uncoils, it's good to recall that just a few weeks ago workers in 20 states saw an increase in the minimum wage. The federal minimum, $7.25, was last raised in 2009. Since then, 29 states and dozens of cities and counties have chosen to exceed the federal floor.…

Gene Nichol

February 13, 2019

President Trump, in his State of the Union speech, broadly and wrongly portrayed illegal immigrants as murderers, rapists and drug dealers who must be stopped. But Trump does not limit his anti-immigrant zeal to them. In service to Trump, authorities are now handcuffing and shackling non-citizens…

Take Back North Carolina Press Conferece - US Attorney Robert Higdon speaks at press conference.jpg

February 13, 2019

Ten states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Twenty-two other states, along with U.S. territories Puerto Rico and Guam, allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes. Let's examine some hidden issues about marijuana use.

Before we start, permit me to…

Walter Williams
317 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 32
        Next Page»   Last Page»