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General Assembly Approves Tax Breaks In Special Session

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RALEIGH, N.C. — State lawmakers agreed Wednesday morning to provide up to $36 million in cash and tax breaks to drug manufacturer Merck to bring a $300 million vaccine plant to Durham County.

Cigarette makers, including R.J. Reynolds, also would benefit from the legislation with an extension and expansion of an export tax credit worth $16 million a year.

The House voted 76-18 in favor of the legislation. The Senate voted 31-4. The votes took place just before 1 a.m., following several hours of committee debate and negotiations.

"This is wrong," said Sen. Virginia Foxx, R-Avery County. "It is absolutely wrong. We ought not to be here at midnight debating this."

Said Sen. Phillip Berger, R- Rockingham County: "We are, in essence, picking winners and losers. And I don't think that's fair to our manufacturing base, which has already been hit very hard."

Democrats argued the state needs job and the incentives are the deal maker.

"It's a necessary evil at this point, and I support the necessary evil," said Rep. Paul Leubke, D-Durham County. "Life's not perfect. Life's not pure, and right now, I want to see these jobs go to Durham County and help our county and help our region."

Said Sen. Hamilton Horton Jr., R-Forsyth County: "I'm going to vote for this bill. I'm going to hold my nose and vote yes, and I would ask that you do, too."

Lawmakers quickly adjourned a special legislative session called to consider the business incentives after taking final votes.

Besides the Merck plant, Easley sought a commitment from R.J. Reynolds to bring 800 new jobs to Winston-Salem.

Critics said the incentives are unfair to companies that have done business in the state for years.

The package now goes to the governor to be signed.

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