Fact check: Debate statements stand up
Posted April 17, 2012
Updated April 18, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, Rep. Bill Faison and former Congressman Bob Etheridge threw out a lot of numbers and assertions during their debate on WRAL-TV Monday night. Now that the lights have dimmed, we're fact-checking some of the claims the Democratic candidates for governor made.
Dalton and early colleges
The claim: When asked what ideas he might adopt from his opponents, Faison used the question to go on the offensive against Dalton. "He takes credit for so many things he had nothing to do with, like the STEM program and the early colleges program."
The facts: Dalton has a solid claim when it comes to early colleges, which give high school students access to college classes. Often these schools focus on students at risk of dropping out or other specific student populations.
In 2003, Dalton was the lone, primary sponsor of S 656: An Act to Establish the Innovative Education Initiatives Act. That bill created the statewide authorization and backing for community colleges and local school systems to work together on early college high schools.
"That would have been the beginning of the first big, statewide push," confirmed Vanessa Jeter, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Public instruction.
That said, the model wasn't completely new at the time. Individual school systems may have had similar programs before that statewide authorization came about. For example, Guilford County started its middle college program, which is similar in many aspects to early college programs, in 2001.
As for Dalton's involvement in STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- education, that's a bit harder to pin down. However, STEM subjects were referenced in the 2003 early college bill. Dalton has been pushing state and business leaders to focus on STEM education as part of his jobs commission, and it is an idea he talks about frequently.
The bottom line: Both early colleges and STEM education are big ideas, which have supporters in a lot of places. However, Dalton did sponsor the bill that lent statewide support to the early college program and has been an advocate for STEM education. To say he has had "nothing to do with" either is unfair.
Fundraising for schools
The claim: Etheridge said that the current version of the General Assembly had under-funded schools. He said that at his 9-year-old grandson's public school, "They're now asking ... each child to come up with $17 so they can pay for a teacher next year."
The facts: Etheridge's campaign told us that the former Congressman was confused and that it was actually a granddaughter's school that made the request. Also, the campaign said, the amount was $14, not $17. However, the campaign insisted that Aldert Root Elementary in Raleigh has asked students to help raise money to pay for a teacher next year.
Drew Ware, Aldert Root's principal, said the school itself doesn't sponsor fundraisers, but there is an educational foundation associated with the school that does raise money. And some of that money, Ware said, does go to pay support staff.
"We have not used that extra money to add a class," Ware said. Rather, the foundation's funding helps pay for classroom-support personnel. For example, a technology specialist helps teach different classes and helps teachers with different information technology issues.
Ware confirmed that that the fundraising goal Etheridge talked about was in the ballpark of the foundation's goal for the year.
The bottom line: Etheridge had several of the specifics here wrong. However, there is an independent fundraising effort at this public school that does go to pay for a position that does some teaching.
No new jobs
The claim: "We have not added any new jobs in this state over the past dozen years," Faison said in response to a question on job creation. When debate host David Crabtree followed up, Faison reiterated that given the ebb and flow of jobs over the past 12 years, "the net effect is no new jobs."
The facts: If this claim rings a bell, it may be because a report by South by North Strategies was very well publicized earlier this year.
In that report, the authors wrote: "To further understand the magnitude of the job gap facing North Carolina, consider that the state ended 2011 with 11,700 fewer payroll jobs (-0.3 percent) than it had in December 1999 ... North Carolina has not recorded any net job growth over the past 12 years despite adding residents."
For further backup, we asked Mike Walden, an economics professor at North Carolina State University, to help us look at the claim.
He pointed to two different sets of numbers collected by the federal government. The Bureau of Labor Statistics "payroll survey" asks businesses about how many workers they have hired. In February of 2000, the state had 3,890,000 non-farm payroll jobs. In February of 3,962,400. That's a net gain of 72,400 jobs. Looking at a separate, smaller survey of households, which captures people working for themselves or for start-up companies, the state had 3,968,759 jobs in February of 2000. That number went up to 4,224,398 in tentative numbers from February of this year, a 255,639 job increase.
Now, both of those sets of numbers indicate some rise in the level of jobs in the state. However, Waldon says they don't indicate terribly robust growth in the state.
"In that 12-year span, we've had two recessions," Waldon said.
Faison actually shot low on the amount of population growth. According to U.S. Census figures, North Carolina had 9.5 million people in 2010, up from 7.8 million in 1998, which would be ballpark growth of 1.7 million. 4/16: NC Democratic gubernatorial debate
The bottom line: Faison was off slightly on the numbers but his overall contention that state job growth has not kept pace with population growth is solid. As Walton said, "I would give him a pass on that."
One NC Job Creation
The claim: "The One North Carolina Fund has created 60,000 and produced $11 billion worth of investment since its inception," Dalton said. He was addressing a question about how good of a job state officials had done with job creation and incentives.
The facts: The One North Carolina Fund was created in 2004. It is overseen by the governor and is designed to lure "high value-added, knowledge-driven industries."
The numbers Dalton cited come from Department of Commerce news releases, such as a notice earlier this month noting that New Belgium Brewing, the third-largest craft brewer in the country, will build its East Coast brewery in Buncombe County. That project was awarded a $1 million grant from the One North Carolina fund. At the bottom of the news release announcing the project, Commerce Department officials wrote, "Through use of the One NC Fund, more than 60,000 jobs and $11 billion in investment have been created since 2001."
Those numbers are actually a bit out of date, said Tim Crowley, an assistant secretary at the Commerce Department. As of February, the exact numbers are 60,537 jobs created and $11.2 billion in investment. In this context, "investment" means money spent on real estate, equipment and upgrades to a property. Such investments add to the state's tax base.
One number that Dalton didn't cite: Those jobs and investments came at the cost of $105.8 million in One NC grant awards since 2004.
It is also worth noting that there is a huge philosophical argument over whether economic incentives actually create jobs or merely shift opportunities from one part of the economy to another.
The bottom line: Job creation philosophy aside, Dalton appears to have cited accurate figures as provided by the Commerce Department.
The claim: "What we have to do is realize that 65 percent of our corporations don’t pay any income tax in this state now," Faison said, when asked about incentives.
The facts: Faison's statement is a boiled down version of something he wrote in his jobs plan.
"In 2005, 65 percent of NC 'C-corps' paid no income tax," Faison wrote. While "C-corporations" can vary, they are typically bigger companies in which the corporation itself is a taxpayer. Typically, smaller businesses organize as "S-corporations," under a different section of the tax code. So the statement doesn't apply to all businesses in North Carolina.
To back up this claim, Faison's jobs plan points to the 2009 N.C. Department of Revenue Biennial Tax Expenditure Report.
And in fact, that report does say, "Based on 2005 tax returns, 65 percent of corporations filing North Carolina C-Corporation tax returns had no tax liability. This creates a special problem in measuring individual tax expenditures since some companies that claim them would still have zero tax liability if they were not allowed a particular deduction." That number went up to 68 percent in 2008, according to the 2011 report.
The bottom line: While Faison wasn't specific in his assertion during the debate, the claim appears to be true as far as it applies to C-Corporations.
The trio meet again for a third time Wednesday at 8 p.m. Watch it LIVE on WRAL.com.