Editorial: Senate's backward budget stifles innovation, new jobs
Posted May 17
A CBC Editorial: Wednesday, May 17, 2017; Editorial # 8162
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
The leaders of North Carolina’s state Senate repeatedly say they want to run government like a business.
The clean energy economy in North Carolina accounts for 1,000 firms and 34,000 fulltime jobs – more than 8,000 added in the last year. Annual revenues in the state’s clean energy economy totals $6.4 billion – an increase of $2.5 billion over the prior year.
A smartly-run business would look to foster and expand the growth of such a healthy sector of the economy. But, from the looks of the budget bill approved last week, the state Senate has a different approach. The Senate budget:
- Kills energy centers at N.C. State, N.C. A&T State and Appalachian State universities. These centers are innovation hubs for conventional and renewable energy and serve to attract and recruit businesses and jobs.
- Slashes funding to match federal U.S. Energy Department grants to the Research Triangle Institute to support energy research.
- Imposes a three-year ban on wind energy facilities in the state “to study the extent and scope of military operations in the state … and the impact of future wind energy infrastructure on military operations.”
Sen. Harry Brown, a Carteret County Republican, and a handful of other legislators, have led the fight against wind energy development in the state. Despite repeated statements to the contrary from the U.S. Defense Department and top military officials based in the state, the legislators have clung to a claim that wind farms present a threat to military bases and training.
In a contorted stretch of logic, Brown sought to portray his opposition to wind farms as a pro-economic development position by protecting the military from the wind farms they say aren’t a threat.
Other legislators, Republicans and Democrats, have been vocal and almost irate at Brown’s efforts to hinder renewable energy development that has been one of the few examples of economic growth in rural parts of the state – particularly the northeastern part of the state.
“This provision is unnecessary and was not provided at the request of the military,” said Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, D-Northampton.
“It will again be a bone of contention,” said Rep. Bob Steinberg, R-Chowan, whose district includes the newly operational Amazon wind farm. He promises to fight in the House for removal of the provision.
That Amazon wind operation generated 250 construction jobs and 14 permanent jobs, $400 million in capital investment and $250,000 in property taxes for Perquimans and Pasquotank counties this year. Landowner rents and local taxes inject $1.1 million annually into the local economy.
Curiously, there have been no similar legislative efforts to hold up development of offshore drilling for possible oil and natural gas resources as well as fracking for natural gas in the area of the state around Chatham, Lee and Moore counties.
While some North Carolina lawmakers continue to erect impediments to clean energy economy growth, Virginia and South Carolina are going in the opposite direction and looking for ways to welcome clean energy businesses.
Well run businesses look for ways to encourage innovation – particularly from sources that can help lower energy costs, generate relatively little waste and create jobs.
The state Senate has produced a budget that discourages innovation, does little to grow new sectors of the economy or position North Carolina toward future prosperity. The House of Representatives needs to correct these ill-advised provisions and fight to make sure North Carolina produces a budget that welcomes creative entrepreneurs.
Capitol Broadcasting Company owns a solar farm in Wake County that has been in operation since April 2012. The electricity generated is sold to Duke Progress Energy.