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Richard LindenmuthRemember when racing legend Richard Petty ran for North Carolina Secretary of State back in 1996? There were a lot of reasons that Petty got thrashed by Elaine Marshall, but one of the most important was Petty’s stated intention to keep running his NASCAR team while serving. It seems almost comical now, but that was actually King Richard’s absurdly tone-deaf plan.

You’d think that little incident might have taught wannabe North Carolina public officials a lesson, but apparently some folks missed the memo. Take Dick Lindenmuth (pictured above), the Raleigh businessman recently hired by State Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker to run the state’s new, soon-to-be privatized corporate recruiting efforts.

According to Mr. Lindenmuth, he intends to retain his position as a managing partner of Verto Partners even as he serves in his new full-time, publicly-funded job. This is, in a word, ridiculous.

This morning, Raleigh’s News & Observer put it this way:

“That is not acceptable. This is a new, complex job, and despite Lindenmuth’s assurances that he’ll be on top of it and not involved in the day-to-day operations of his company, there must not be any chance for a distraction or a conflict. Taxpayers need to have those who work for them accountable only to them.”

As the editorial notes, there are lots of other reasons to be very concerned about the mad rush to privatize corporate recruiting, but this one, quite fixable problem can and should be addressed ASAP.

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12-3In case you missed it, the McCrory administration took yet another step in recent days to assure that the always opaque and ripe-for-corruption business of bestowing economic “incentives” (i.e. giveaways to corporations) becomes just a little bit more opaque and even more vulnerable to corrupt practices.

As many folks are already aware, McCrory and his Commerce Department Secretary, Sharon Decker, have been moving to privatize the Department’s business recruiting/incentives work for some time. The plan — not yet fully fleshed out because the General Assembly has yet to formally  sign off on the deal — is to fire a bunch of Commerce Department employees and then recreate and re-establish their functions in a publicly-funded, private nonprofit.  To make matters worse, the whole thing appears to be thoroughly infused with partisan politics as one of McCrory’s top fundraisers has been designated to serve on the board of the new nonprofit (the fundraiser, John Lassiter, finally resigned last week from his position on the renew North Carolina Foundation — a group that exists to generate pro-McCrory propaganda — after months of drum-banging Chris Fitzsimon).

The latest outrage, however, involves the hiring of the new nonprofit’s first executive director. Read More

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Fast food workersRaleigh’s News & Observer published an outstanding think piece by Kevin Rogers of Action NC today udner the headline “The high cost of fast-food’s low wages.” Rogers’ headline was simpler: “McWelfare.” 

As you can see below, either one works.

I recently met Willietta Dukes, a mother of two and fast-food employee in Durham, North Carolina. Willietta makes $7.85 at Burger King, despite 16 years of experience in the fast-food industry. In August, tired of struggling to get by, she walked off her job, just a month after losing her home because she could no longer afford rent payments. Despite working hard for as many hours as she gets from Burger King, Willietta is forced to rely on food stamps just to make ends meet.

Willietta is not alone. Research released this week finds that more than half – 52% – of fast-food workers nationwide are paid so little that the public needs to provide assistance to make sure workers can afford basic, everyday needs. In other words, fast-food employees are twice as likely as other workers to be forced to rely on programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) or Medicaid. Read More

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Sharon DeckerFor years, one area of common ground between conservatives and progressives in North Carolina has been their shared skepticism for business incentives. As analysts and advocates from both camps have shown dozens of times, state and local governments in North Carolina are pouring millions upon millions of dollars down a rat hole on corporate giveaways each year — sometimes just to lure businesses from one county to another.

Over time, the end result is an enormous drain on public resources that breeds cynicism, corruption and special favors and disadvantages homegrown, taxpaying businesses. To make matters worse, virtually every politician who campaigns for public office pledges to reform incentives and then, once in office, finds it impossible to do anything about the problem.

The latest case-in-point is Gov. McCrory who seems bent upon not just using corporate incentives, but dramatically expanding them. If you doubt this, check out reporter Andy Curliss’ article in Raleigh’s News & Observer about the administration’s utterly daft new proposal (given voice by Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker – pictured above) to tax fracking as a way of creating a giant slush fund to attract/bribe corporations: Read More

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Bill SchwekeOne of  North Carolina’s most experienced and insightful economic development experts, retired CFED wonk and former Senior Fellow Bill Schweke, forwarded the following brief essay in response to the series in Raleigh’s News & Observer on North Carolina’s rather amazing generosity in dispensing tax breaks and other giveaways to businesses in the name of “economic development.”  

JUST SAY “NO”
By William Schweke

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The new series in Raleigh’s News & Observer (“The Missing Money”) provides a near perfect illustration of this adage in the field of taxes, subsidies, and business attraction.

Like most states desperate for new jobs during the Great Recession, the price tag for the state’s package of general tax loopholes and company-specific, tailored incentives has increased significantly, during the past few years, with very little pushback from critics.

Indeed, the debate has tended to be framed as follows: Read More