News-Star: Opinion

Nothing special

In a video posted online Sept. 19, Gov. Pat McCrory announced he wouldn’t call legislators back to Raleigh this year to consider new economic-development incentives or extend existing tax-credit programs. He left the door open, however, to summon the General Assembly if a “major job-recruitment effort develops and it requires legislative support.”

Not everyone was smiling after watching the video. Here are a few thoughts about the governor’s decision not to compel a special session.

•  The governor and his staff considered this an important decision. The nearly five-minute video posted to YouTube mirrored a media strategy McCrory has used previously to make other big announcements. The Republican governor released a video last year to explain why he vetoed Republican-sponsored bills related to immigration and welfare benefits. He also used videos to tout economic progress in his first year in office and to announce that he was signing controversial voting legislation, which included the voter-ID requirement.

•  The decision wasn’t easy, and the first-term governor might have burned bridges in making it. A member of his cabinet, Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker, wanted more money for a popular incentives program, known as JDIG, and a special $20 million cash fund to help close deals with companies in the latter stages of negotiations with the state. The N.C. Economic Developers Association, Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, Charlotte officials, film-industry advocates and some Republican and Democratic legislators had urged the governor to bring lawmakers back to consider various economic-incentives programs. Another cabinet secretary, Susan Kluttz of Cultural Resources, had pushed for the renewal of the historic-preservation tax credit, which expires at the end of the year.

But the governor resisted, saying it would be “counterproductive and a waste of taxpayer money to bring the General Assembly back when there is no agreement in place” on the incentives issues.

•  The decision might have implications for the November elections for state House and Senate. Don’t be surprised if you see ads or receive mailings about the incentives issue before Nov. 4. Already, some Democrats are speaking out about the potential negative impact on job creation of backing away from incentives.

“I’d like to know how the governor hopes to finance teacher raises if there’s no commerce going on in this state,” Rep. Susi Hamilton, a Wilmington Democrat, told the Wilmington StarNews.

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity, however, praised the governor. “The time for corporate welfare and special interest handouts is ending in North Carolina,” said Donald Bryson, AFP’s North Carolina director.

•  The incentives issue again will be a topic for debate when the Legislature convenes in January for the long legislative session. It will be interesting to see whether this year’s anti-incentives legislative session is a sign of what’s to come from the GOP-dominated Legislature. In the video, McCrory hinted that he would push next year to implement new economic-development tools to recruit jobs and ask lawmakers to pass a program to restore historic buildings.

We’ll see what happens next year. But McCrory didn’t feel the need to do it now.

Patrick Gannon is a syndicated columnist who writes about state government and politics.