State budget director Andrew Heath is downplaying the economic impact of job losses and event cancellations prompted by House Bill 2.
Heath addressed the issue Monday during a lunch presentation to the conservative John Locke Foundation. He did not mention HB2 by name and instead referred to it as “a controversial policy.”
Heath, who was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory, described opponents of the law as “folks who like to say the sky is falling because a sporting event is moved out of state.”
The sporting event is the NBA All-Star Game, which recently announced it won’t come to Charlotte in 2017 because it views the law as discriminatory toward LGBT people. Tourism experts had estimated the game could have had as much as $100 million in economic impact in the Charlotte area, with tens of thousands of visitors spending money at hotels and restaurants.
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PayPal also dropped its plans to add 400 jobs in Charlotte because of its opposition to HB2.
But Heath said those losses aren’t big enough to affect the state’s overall economic growth, in part because North Carolina ranks as the 23rd largest economy in the world. He compared the NBA’s departure to the impact of a canceled soccer game on the economies of Poland and Austria.
“Some of the impact of some of that controversial legislation that you hear about is not borne out by the numbers,” he said.
Heath says the state’s economy has added 300,000 new jobs since 2014. Even with additional corporate and personal income tax cuts set to take effect in January, the budget office is forecasting a 3.9 percent increase in state revenue for the current fiscal year.
“It’s projected to be moderate,” he said. “It is continued growth, and that shouldn’t be taken for granted. I don’t know that other states will be faring quite as well.”
But like HB2, Heath said another McCrory initiative likely also won’t have a big effect on the economy initially: The $2 billion Connect N.C. bond package funding new construction at universities, parks and other state facilities.
The bond spending, he said, is “probably not going to move the needle. I’m not sure that infrastructure is going to play a huge role in North Carolina.”