Senators skeptical of House economic development bill

Top Senate leaders say they are unsure whether they'll take up an economic development measure passed by the state House last week.

Posted Updated
Mark Binker
RALEIGH, N.C. — A House bill that would plow millions of dollars into economic development efforts doesn't seem poised to move quickly through the Senate.

House Bill 117, the N.C. Competes Act, carries a number of measures favored by Gov. Pat McCrory, including changes to a program designed to lure big manufactures to the state that could issue $900 million in rebates over the next 15 years. The same bill would also expand tax breaks on electricity purchases for data centers and continues a tax break on jet fuel for airlines.

The measure passed the House 88-29, with a bipartisan mix of lawmakers on both sides of the vote.

When the bill came to the Senate on Monday night, leaders sent it to the Rules Committee. A trip to Rules can sometime be an indication that a measure is on the fast track, but for other bills, the committee is a place to languish unheard.

Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca made clear this was not a fast-track sort of assignment.

"We've had a discussion about what rank and file can accept in terms of an economic development bill, and, to say this bill pushes that limit is an understatement," said Apodaca, R-Henderson.

Ordinarily, seeing a bill launched from one chamber parked in the other wouldn't be a noteworthy occurrence at this point in the legislative session. However, McCrory and state Commerce Secretary John Skvarla have both lobbied their fellow Republicans for this bill. The administration has said it is trying to recruit large companies to the state, including auto makers, but doesn't have the tools it needs to close the deal.

In particular, the program currently known as JDIG allows for rebates of payroll taxes. Another provision in the bill would give big manufacturers a particularly attractive tax break.

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