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State Lawmakers Stuck With $19 Million Debt For Global Transpark

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Lawmakers hope to have the state budget hammered out by next week. On Friday, the House detailed a version that does not sit well with everyone. It includes millions of dollars for a debt payment for the Global Transpark in Kinston.

The Global Transpark was supposed to bring thousands of jobs and tons of money in eastern North Carolina. It has been under fire after millions of dollars of public money have gone into the project, but it has failed to meet expectations.

"They got into debt they couldn't pay off. When I was in the banking business, we used to say a rolling loan gathers no loss, so the General Assembly is bailing the Transpark out on $19 million," said Rep. Stephen Laroque, R-Lenoir. "At the same time, they're trying to borrow another $4 million for a Shell building for which there are no tenants."

"Every time we try to put a stop to feeding this hole, they say 'Oh, we've got something in the pipeline.'" said Rep. Wilma Sherrill, R-Buncombe.

House Appropriation members debated an amendment from LaRoque to turn control of the money-strapped Transpark over to the Commerce Department, but that measure failed.

"Sometimes, it takes a long time to hatch an egg and that's what the Transpark is," said Appropriations Chairman Rep. James Crawford.

In other legislative news, some mental health advocates are concerned after House members proposed a $10 million cut to local mental health programs.

"The impact could be devastating when these funds have been appropriated and they are just waiting to be used, we have people that desperately need them," said John Tote, of the Mental Health Association in North Carolina.

The House Appropriations Committee proposed a flat $1,000 raise for state workers, instead of the Easley's 2 percent hike.

Education spending is close to what Easley wants. The House plan includes all the money Easley requested for the More at Four program and to reduce class size. An earlier version only approved half the money.

The proposals go to the full House on Monday.