Raleigh, N.C. — House Democrats on Tuesday called for a renewed commitment to providing incentives to businesses to bring jobs to North Carolina.
Rep. Rodney Moore, D-Mecklenburg, recited a litany of incentives and tax breaks that have been eliminated by the Republican-led General Assembly in recent years or are set to expire this year, including tax credits for research and development, redeveloping historic buildings, film and television productions and renewable energy production. Other incentives, such as the Job Development Investment Grant program, are underfunded, he said.
"The public seems confused as to whether or not North Carolina is open for business," said Rep. Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover. "Not understanding what the playing field looks like, it's very difficult for the private sector to make a valid decision, and for that reason, we've seen a lot of industries turn and go to other states."
Hamilton cited the "large sucking sound" of the thousands of film and TV jobs that have left North Carolina in recent weeks after the film tax credit expired at the end of December. It has been replaced by a much smaller grant program this year.
Republican lawmakers have repeatedly said they want to make the tax code simpler by eliminating breaks that favor some over others, but Hamilton noted there are 250 tax credits written into state law, and no study has been conducted to determine which generate the most revenue for North Carolina and deserve to continue.
Instead of using incentives to bring high-paying jobs to the state, she said, North Carolina is attracting more low-wage jobs, noting the state exceeds the national average in the growth of such jobs by 11.5 percent.
"Unemployment numbers may be down in North Carolina, but the wages earned in low-wage jobs make it impossible for North Carolina families to make ends meet," she said.
Even with more people working, the Democrats said, the state doesn't find itself with the money needed to invest in education, transportation and law enforcement.
Moore said Democrats want to work with Republicans to devise an economic development strategy that would include incentives and tools such as crowd-funding, but he said Democrats would introduce their own bill in the next few weeks to get the ball rolling.
"All of these things should be included in our economic toolbox so we can really have a Carolina comeback and bring jobs and industry back to North Carolina so all of our citizens can prosper," he said.