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Survey Results Pose Interesting Dilemmas

Last Friday, the folks at Public Policy Polling released the results of their latest survey.  Many issues were covered as pointed out in their news release.  One notable result was that 67% of those surveyed supported a ban on smoking in restaurants and public places.  For many, a smoking ban is a “no-brainer,” but not for our lawmakers. The chief sponsor of smoking ban legislation, Representative and House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman, is struggling to acquire the needed votes to pass the ban and has had to water the proposal down in recent days.

Another interesting result from the survey was the way North Carolinians are divided on business incentives for economic development. While 58% of poll respondents said they supported business incentives, far fewer (only 36%) said they supported the most visible recent example of incentives at work – the $260 million that internet company Google will receive over the next 20 years. 

How can one explain this contradiction?  One explanation might be that while North Carolinians like the idea of business incentives (and the notion that they provide money to our state’s economy by increasing jobs and spurring more tax revenue) they are skeptical of how they work in the real world (especially in light of reports like Getting Our Money’s Worth? the recent report from the N.C. Justice Center that cast doubt upon the state’s incentives calculations). The Google deal may also highlight the public’s skepticism toward local government participation in incentives. The state participating in the incentive bidding war is accepted by most, but when towns and local governments begin entering the arena the incentives simply cost too much.  Local governments are fighting for these businesses to come to their communities, but in doing so, are making deals that they cannot afford, ultimately affecting their financial stability. 

In general, it seems North Carolinians support smaller, less expensive and less dramatic incentive packages, but are weary of the more expensive ones – especially those that feature overbidding from local governments.

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