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Like all budgets, Governor Pat McCrory’s proposed spending plan for FY2013-2015 is based on a set of ideas about how the world works—what spurs economic growth, what creates jobs, and the most effective ways of using state government to achieve these goals.  Unfortunately, his proposal for economic development represents quite a few bad ideas, including the sharp reduction in spending for economic development nonprofits that receive state funding through the Commerce-State Aid portion of the budget.  These nonprofits provide vital economic development resources for historically disadvantaged and persistently distressed communities and minority populations. 

At the same time, he proposes boosting spending on industrial recruitment and other traditional economic development activities that will likely bypass the communities benefitting from the work of these nonprofits, if any meaningful job creation or economic growth is generated at all.  Read More

Later today, Governor McCrory will announce his proposals to convert the Department of Commerce into a public private partnership that administers at least some of the state’s economic development programs.  North Carolina taxpayers should be concerned.

Although we won’t know the specifics of this privatization scheme until the Governor’s announcement, we do know from previous public statements that the plan will likely involve the creation of a nonprofit economic  development authority that receives financial support from both taxpayers and corporate donations in exchange for overseeing a range of activities related to industrial recruitment, existing industry support, and possibly small business development. This may also include administration of the state’s incentive programs—the Job Development Investment Grants (JDIGs), the OneNC Fund, and the Jobs Maintenance and Capital program for large employers.

Privatizing economic development isn’t new—a number of states have experimented with this approach over the past two decades, and the results are not encouraging. According to one recent report, states that have adopted public private partnerships for their economic development efforts have seen the misuse of taxpayer dollars, questionable incentive awards to failing companies, the appearance of pay-to-play incentive granting to those companies providing financial support to the partnership, and frequent lack of transparency and accountability with how the partnership spends taxpayer dollars.

And to top it all off, many of these partnerships haven’t proven to be very effective in generating the job creation results promised

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With the imminent release of the Governor’s budget—possibly as soon as later today—this is the last in a series of posts looking at key issues ahead in the FY 2013-15 North Carolina state budget. This post examines the Natural and Economic Resources (NER) area of the budget, the functional area that provides spending for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor, the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, and a variety of programs associated with the state’s economic development efforts.  These include the Department of Commerce, the N.C. Rural Center, the N.C. Biotech Center, and about a dozen nonprofit entities that are funded as part of the Commerce-State Aid portion of the budget.

While the main story about NER in FY 2011-13 involved the dismantling of DENR’s regulatory functions and overall 49% cut in funding to the total budget area, the story for this biennium will likely involve the state pass-through funding from Commerce-State Aid to the various nonprofits engaged in economic development efforts on behalf of the state. 

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The big news on the jobs front the past couple days has been the announcement by Governor Pat McCrory that insurance giant MetLife has agreed to make a new $126 million investment in two North Carolina locations, resulting in the creation of 2,600 jobs.

While the news of any job creation is good news when the state’s unemployment rate is over 9 percent, the price tag attached to these jobs is causing a bit of sticker shock. The deal involves providing $87 million in Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) incentives to MetLife over the next 12 years—the largest discretionary incentive package North Carolina has ever offered from this program.

Given North Carolina’s tight state budget and persistently high unemployment, the public needs to know as much as possible about the real costs and benefits of the deal—and whether it’s really worth $87 million in taxpayer dollars, or about $33,000 per job.

To that end, here are three questions about the MetLife deal that need answers:

Question #1—How many jobs will go to North Carolina residents? While MetLife has promised to create 2,600 jobs, how many of these employment opportunities will be open to people already living in North Carolina, and how many will be filled by moving the company’s current employees from other locations in California and New England? At a cost of $33,000 per job, it’s hard to understand the justification behind simply providing taxpayer subsidies to cover the relocation expenses of out-of-state residents, unless the overwhelming majority of these new jobs can be filled with North Carolina residents.

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The federal trial of former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque on charges of money laundering and stealing federal funds has been pushed back to later this spring.

His trial is now scheduled for the week of May 14  in front of U.S. Senior District Judge Malcolm Howard, according to an order signed Friday by Malcolm. The previous trial date had been in February.

LaRoque

LaRoque

LaRoque, a Kinston Republican, was a state legislator in a prominent leadership role when he was indicted last July on eight counts of theft of government funds and money laundering. He resigned soon after the indictment was handed down by a Raleigh-based federal grand jury.

The federal investigation followed the publication in August 2011 of an N.C. Policy Watch investigation that found he received plush salaries, stacked the board of directors of the East Carolina Development Company and Piedmont Development Company with immediate family members and arranged loans of U.S Department of Agriculture money from his two non-profits to two other state lawmakers and other close associates.

The July indictment accuses LaRoque of using the non-profits to help fund a lavish lifestyle that included buying replica Faberge eggs for his wife, cars, a house for a step-daughters and a roller-skating rink for his family members.

A federal grand jury handed down four additional charges of fraud and tax evasion in December, and LaRoque’s defense attorney Joe Cheshire will need more time to go over new evidence, wrote Dennis Duffy, the assistant U.S. Attorney handling the case.

 

 

Continuance motion for Stephen LaRoque trial by ncpolicywatch