Republican state senators voiced concerns this week about a jobs incentive program that Gov. Pat McCrory wants to see significantly expanded within weeks.
Next week, the House will begin discussing a bill that doubles the cap on the Job Development Investment Grant, which is largely out of money to lure major employers to the state. The McCrory administration has worked closely with House Republicans to draft the bill, which was filed Tuesday.
But the bill could prove a tougher sell in the Senate, where talk has already begun about “modifications” to the program. The House bill changes the name to Job Growth Reimbursement Opportunities, while leaving the incentive terms unchanged. The amount McCrory’s administration could promise by end of the year would increase from $22.5 million to $45 million.
Sen. Bill Rabon, a Southport Republican, said he worries that JDIG grants have been given to companies that have brought along employees from other states.
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MetLife – which was promised up to $87.3 million in JDIG money to bring 2,622 jobs to Cary and Charlotte – moved here to consolidate workers from 30 sites in other states. When the move was announced, the company wasn’t sure how many of its current employees would move to North Carolina.
“We seem to be sort of deficient when it comes to demanding measures of effectiveness on these programs so we know we’re not importing people here to work,” Rabon said.
Rabon co-chairs the Senate Finance Committee where the House incentives bill will be discussed. The other co-chairman, Sen. Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County, says he has similar concerns.
“You would hope that the jobs that are produced in the state actually hire North Carolinians,” Rucho said. “It does us no good to bring a company here that brings their entire employee base with them.”
Senators said they also want to consider provisions to bring more jobs to rural counties. Legislative staffers showed data indicating that 83 percent of JDIG money in 2013 and 2014 went to Wake and Mecklenburg counties.
“Any way we might spread this out across all 100 counties?” asked Sen. Andy Wells, a Hickory Republican.
But Sen. Brent Jackson, a Sampson County Republican, pointed out that urban JDIG grants include a contribution to the state’s utility fund, which funds rural infrastructure projects. “It’s not only helping the big cities and metropolitan areas where these companies move to, but it’s also helping the rural because of the utility fund,” Jackson said.
Still, Rucho said the urban-rural incentive split will be on his committee’s agenda. Starting Tuesday, he says, the panel “will hopefully explore some of the areas where we can modify the JDIG program to reach the metrics that we want if we want all 100 counties to be prosperous.”
Meanwhile, McCrory’s administration is urging legislators to pass the bill quickly. They say companies are awaiting incentive packages and could locate elsewhere if they don’t get an offer soon.