Bless the heart of the stormwater advisory group that suggested to raise the stormwater fees to record levels. I wonder...

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

December 09, 2018 - 55 minutes ago

There's something uncomfortably sterile about life-expectancy rates.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that average American life expectancy shortened by a tenth of a year, as it did last year, it's forgivable if the problem isn't immediately obvious. Sure, we might have…

Robert Gebelhoff

December 09, 2018 - 55 minutes ago

"When you strike at a king you must kill him," Ralph Waldo Emerson once said. Well, this year China tried to strike at President Trump for daring to launch a trade war with Beijing — and missed the mark entirely.

After Trump imposed massive tariffs on Chinese goods earlier this year,…


December 08, 2018


“There is no Plan B because there is no Planet B,” Emmanuel Macron lectured Donald Trump — in English — when the American President withdrew from the Paris climate agreement last year. Well, apparently there is a Plan B after all. Macron stopped his…

December 08, 2018

Back in 1897, an eight-year-old girl, prompted by naysaying friends, wrote The New York Sun wanting the truth about the existence of Santa Claus. Today that letter might be answered by apparent congressman-elect Mark Harris, confirming not only Santa’s existence, but also that his name is…

Tom Campbell

December 07, 2018

There is a lot about President George H.W. Bush that we will miss. And the current occupant of the White House puts into vivid relief the things that we will miss the most. Our president today couldn't be more different from Bush. I hope the values that Bush brought to his distinguished career in…


December 07, 2018

All of the leaders assembled at the Group of 20 meeting in Buenos Aires committed their nations to the fight against climate change, except one — President Trump, of course. But pay him no mind. As the proverb says, "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on."

We don't have to wait for history…

Eugene Robinson

December 06, 2018 - 55 minutes ago

How does being barefoot make you feel? Relaxed? Uncomfortable? Most people are only barefoot as they prepare for sleep. Most Americans are more comfortable wearing shoes in their own home. Or, at the very least, they’ll keep socks on around the house. There is nothing wrong with this.…


December 06, 2018

In response to the toppling in August of the Confederate Monument at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chancellor Carol Folt and other UNC leaders have proposed a controversial solution: a new $5.3 million building on campus that will cost $800,000 a year to operate.

Some are…

john hood

December 06, 2018

Michael Flynn has been waiting for more than a year to be sentenced. The retired three-star Army general, who spent 24 days as the Trump White House national security adviser, pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to lying to the FBI in the Trump-Russia investigation. He agreed to cooperate with special…

Byron York

December 05, 2018

The humanitarian crisis at the California-Mexico border demands thoughtfulness and clear thinking from federal, state and local leaders. With thousands of Central Americans in Tijuana seeking asylum after the arrival of their caravan this month — and thousands more still expected in coming…

Central America Migrant Caravan
324 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 33
        Next Page»   Last Page»