@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Some say McCrory budget shortchanges rural areas

Posted March 22, 2013
Updated March 25, 2013

— Groups that support economic development in North Carolina's rural counties say they were stunned to learn they were left out when Gov. Pat McCrory outlined his spending priorities this week.

"Everything we heard was rural areas are going to fully participate, and here we go. Then, we got a budget," said Billy Ray Hall, president of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center.

McCrory's proposed 2013-14 budget cuts the Rural Center's appropriation from $16 million to $6 million. It also would remove all $65 million in annual money from Golden LEAF, a Rocky Mount foundation that uses money from the national tobacco litigation settlement to fund economic development projects in poor counties.

"I'm surprised by this," said Dan Gerlach, president of Golden LEAF.

McCrory had previously said he wanted to boost development outside of North Carolina's urban centers.

"Our biggest challenge is to develop a strategy for small towns across North Carolina that have been hit hard by this recession," he said in his State of the State address in January. "We've got to work with the small towns in North Carolina. There are too many people hurting in those small towns."

The Rural Center already works with those towns on infrastructure linked to job creation, such as water and sewer lines at a Caterpillar Inc. equipment plant in Clayton or up-fitting an old Henderson warehouse so Semprius could build solar energy cells.

Hall said such a steep budget cut could prevent the center from helping communities that turn to him when they're close to landing a major employer. Rural decay, abandoned factory Steep cuts could make it harder to boost rural economies

"(They will ask) 'We've got 2,000 jobs, and what can you do?' And I'll say, 'Nothing,'" he said. "What worries me is, are rural communities going to participate in the recovery as they might have?"

If the annual payment from the tobacco settlement is going to go to the state's General Fund instead of to Golden LEAF, the foundation will have to rely solely on investment income from its $750 million portfolio to provide grants, Gerlach said. The organization has funded everything from laptops for schools to a $100 million grant to attract aircraft manufacturer Spirit Aerosystems to Kinston.

"If it's taken away from us, where does this money go to help those communities that are left behind? I don't see it," he said. "This is not the death knell of the foundation. It's simply going to dramatically affect our ability to accomplish some of the objectives that everyone wants to have, which is a more economically prosperous state."

McCrory spokeswoman Kim Genardo praised the work of Golden LEAF and the Rural Center, but she said allowing the governor and lawmakers to "make transparent decisions" with state money is the best way to "fund our highest priorities."

The two organizations also will be addressed as McCrory and Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker overhaul the Department of Commerce to streamline economic development efforts, Genardo said.

26 Comments

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  • miseem Mar 25, 7:31 p.m.

    Employers go where they can get good employees; I've met rural people half my age who can't read a string-trimmer owner's manual. And they work at the yard equipment store.
    Terkel.
    I've met lots of urban clerks that can't make change on a (now rare) cash purchase without a cash register telling them or a calculator. So, what's your point?

  • miseem Mar 25, 7:29 p.m.

    McCrory needs to cut state pensions. Something is wrong when bunches of people draw 200,000 in retirement per year. No one deserves that kind of pension.
    Danny22. And who, and how many, NC government retirees get anywhere close that amount.

  • Nancy Mar 25, 6:55 p.m.

    "So, cut the Rural Center's appropriation from $16 million to $6 million, but give $125 million to the Carolina Panthers to renovate a stadium that gets used by a VERY small number of people 3 months out of the year, since they almost never make the playoffs? Makes perfect sense."

    Don't let the facts get in the way - that the expansion of the panther stadium is going to be paid for out of sales taxes charged in Charlotte for hotel rooms - guest taxes. Not a single state tax will be used.

  • jackjones2nc Mar 25, 4:42 p.m.

    Unemployment is significantly greater in more rural areas, so it's very sad that McCrory and Republicans would slight those communities relative to development.

  • wral mods blow close my account Mar 25, 1:59 p.m.

    McCrory has gotta pay for his buddies raises somehow.

  • Terkel Mar 25, 12:45 p.m.

    "Hall said such a steep budget cut could prevent the center from helping communities that turn to him when they're close to landing a major employer.

    "(They will ask) 'We've got 2,000 jobs, and what can you do?' And I'll say, 'Nothing,'" he said. "What worries me is, are rural communities going to participate in the recovery as they might have?" - story

    If they're close to landing a major employer without subsidies, perhaps we don't need Golden Leaf and its attendant bureaucracy, potential fraud, and lifetime pensions and health insurance for the govt employees. This doesn't make sense and if it doesn't make sense, it's made up.

    Employers go where they can get good employees; I've met rural people half my age who can't read a string-trimmer owner's manual. And they work at the yard equipment store.

  • kornfan2448 Mar 25, 12:22 p.m.

    So, cut the Rural Center's appropriation from $16 million to $6 million, but give $125 million to the Carolina Panthers to renovate a stadium that gets used by a VERY small number of people 3 months out of the year, since they almost never make the playoffs? Makes perfect sense.

  • wildpig777 Mar 25, 11:48 a.m.

    so wrong in many ways ... the state of NC does not end at Raleigh as many of you seem to think ... Eastern NC needs and deserves this financial support.

    Tunaboy

    i got news for you tunaboy- i happen to agree with you 100%, but the reality is -- it begins and ends in orange durham and wake countys. us down east folks never count-- unless u live on hiway 12 which is a lost cause to begin with.

  • Danny22 Mar 25, 11:26 a.m.

    McCrory needs to cut state pensions. Something is wrong when bunches of people draw 200,000 in retirement per year. No one deserves that kind of pension.

  • censorbait Mar 25, 9:12 a.m.

    Your sources are questionable. Billy Ray Hall is a democrat party hack and operative and always has been. Nothing more. The Golden Leaf Foundation is a democrat controlled slush fund and should be dissolved and the money sent to the state's general fund. First and foremost, democrats only tax and spend and thereby buying votes for themselves with taxpayer's hard earned money.

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