Thursday, May 27, 2010

Former justice: 'Open up' on incentives

Former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr, who has challenged the state's granting of financial incentives including tax credits to attract new jobs to the state, is also opposing a legislative move to grant up to $23 million in incentives over the next two years for corporations that would bring new jobs here. Orr, executive director the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law, said the plan to attract jobs from two data centers, an energy turbine make and a paper plant, should not move forward without making more details public, including the names of the companies seeking the incentives.

An AP story Thursday quoted Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg about the plans. "These are live fish," he said. "They have told us what it would take to seal the deal." The AP report said the paper plant would locate west of Charlotte and south of I-40. The plants combined would result in as many as 1,550 jobs and invest about $1.9 billion in overall investments. But Orr argues for more transparency.

In a statement, Orr said, “As we watch the General Assembly and local governments cut teaching jobs, other educational programs and numerous other areas of necessary government services, these same legislators are willing to give away millions in tax revenue to ‘unnamed’ corporations. A fundamental question needs to be asked of these corporations. Do you need this money more than the students and educators of our state? Do you need this money more than public safety programs and the court system or recipients of mental health services? If the answer is 'yes' then let those corporate executives stand before the citizens of this state along with their legislative friends and high-paid lobbyists and explain why they need it so badly. Instead the legislative process hides the identity of these corporations as well as the names of their lobbyists who are trolling the halls of the Legislature and the Commerce Department. The public is kept in the dark as to who they are or what they’re demanding in the way of public benefits… The public has a right to know BEFORE the votes are taken and taxpayer money committed. It’s time to open up the process.”

Friday update: The Senate has given tentative approval to the bill on a 39-4 vote, which tells you it has a lot of support in the Senate.  The N&O quotes Clodfelter as saying, "You must spend the money in North Carolina before you qualify for the incentives. This is a fairly concrete response to negotiations that are going on with Commerce and five companies that say they are considering locating or expanding in North Carolina."
The N&O also quoted Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Meck., that the best way to lure business is to cut corporate tax rates. "The corporate tax system has been a real anchor on our ability to be competitive in the states and acro:s the globe.

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