Under the Dome

Dome: Panthers' owner wants state money

FROM STAFF REPORTSFebruary 13, 2013 

Carolina Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson personally asked state lawmakers to help finance a stadium upgrade Wednesday, offering a plan that calls for $62.5 million in state aid and state approval for $144 million in higher local taxes.

Some lawmakers responded with questions, particularly about the tax hike.

Richardson and team President Danny Morrison appeared at the Mecklenburg County delegation meeting with Charlotte Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble, who outlined the proposal.

Richardson described his long effort to win the franchise, which was awarded in 1993. He insisted he has no plans to move it.

“I would never move the team, I want to emphasize that,” Richardson told Mecklenburg legislators. “I never made a threat to move the team. To be honest with you, it was offensive to me to suggest I would.”

The agreement would tie the team to the city for 15 years.

Kimble asked legislators for help in winning support for the city to raise its prepared food and beverage tax by 1 percent. The increase would raise $125 million for the Panthers and some for amateur sports.

Rep. Charles Jeter, a Cornelius Republican, suggested the amateur sports allocation was “nebulous.”

Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican, said, “The 1 percent (tax) seems to be more than we need.”

And Matthews Republican Bill Brawley asked why, if the debt would be retired in 15 years, the tax hike would not sunset for 30.

“This is a long-term solution, not just a short-term solution,” replied Kimble, who said the continuation would give the city flexibility after the 15-year term of the agreement.

Richardson showed up at the 7:30 a.m. meeting after being in Philadelphia the night before to attend a memorial service. He said the proposal is “time sensitive.”

“If it wasn’t so time sensitive,” he said, “I wouldn’t be here at the crack of dawn this morning.”

Tata wooed for other jobs

McCrory said he interviewed Transportation Secretary Tony Tata for two jobs: chairman of the state Board of Education and head of the division of N.C. Department of Correction.

“When I interviewed him, I realized he built roads under fire in Afghanistan,” McCrory told the Emerging Issues Forum luncheon in Raleigh on Tuesday. “I figured if he can build roads under fire in Afghanistan he can sure do it in North Carolina.’’

AFP pushes spending cuts

Members of the state chapter of Americans for Prosperity this week are visiting congressional district offices to urge lawmakers to support spending cuts. The AFP is pressuring congress to not vote to prevent the automatic sequestration spending cuts scheduled to take place in several weeks.

“North Carolina taxpayers are tired of the excuses – it’s time for Congress to cut spending and we intend to hold our senators and representatives accountable,” said Dallas Woodhouse, the group’s state director.

The group said it plans office visits, knocking on doors and town hall meetings across the state.

On Wednesday, the group was planning to visit the Wilson office of Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield and the Greenville offices of Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican Rep. Walter Jones. On Thursday, it will visit Republican Sen. Richard Burr’s Wilmington office and Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre’s Leland office.

No answers on Lightfoot

On Tuesday, Gov. Pat McCrory tread carefully when asked about Dianna Lightfoot, the controversial appointment to head the pre-kindergarten program that blew up last week.

The governor didn’t want to get into the details of who was involved in the hiring of Lightfoot, who never started work after media reports that she opposes pre-kindergarten, referred online to former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “butch,” and to vaccination as “government intervention.”

McCrory apparently did not want to put Health and Human Resources Secretary Aldona Wos, who he recruited for the post, on the spot.

“I do not approve all undersecretaries,” McCrory said in an interview. “I give my secretaries a lot of flexibility.”

He referred any comment on the specifics to the DHHS.

On Wednesday, Wos spent more than an hour talking to legislators about her department’s priorities but left before reporters could ask about her decision to hire Lightfoot.

DHHS spokeswoman Julie Henry said she did not know how Lightfoot was vetted.

Staff writers John Frank, Rob Christensen, Lynn Bonner and Charlotte Observer writer Jim Morrill

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