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.
Copyright 2022 by WRAL.com and the Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.