Upon electing a new conservative majority in Raleigh, voters have high hopes for the end of the General Assembly’s “write a check and hope for the best” approach to economic development.
However, House Bill 169: High Point Furniture Market Funds sponsored by Rep. Maggie Jeffus (D-Guilford), Rep. John Faircloth (R-Guilford), Rep. Marcus Brandon (D-Guilford), and Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) is just more of the same. Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford), Sen. Don Vaughan (D-Guilford), and Sen. Stan Bingham (R-Davidson) have introduced identical legislation in the Senate (SB 188).
The bill seeks to allocate more than $4 million in taxpayer dollars over the next two years to the High Point Furniture Market. This is clearly a case of the experienced old dogs–Jeffus and Blust–teaching the freshmen new dogs–Faircloth and Brandon–the same old political tricks.
This bill is bad for three reasons: it’s pork, it takes money out of the highway fund, and it furthers a flawed economic development strategy.
First, there is no denying that this bill is pure pork. It takes state funds and allocates them to a very specific local project. Sure, the folks in Guilford County like it…but it doesn’t do much for the rest of the state forced to pick up the tab. Funding this particular pork project might be tradition, but that still doesn’t make it right.
Second, more than half—$2.4 million to be exact—of the money would come out of the highway fund. I’ve written articles in the past about why it is a bad idea to spend highway money on things that are not highways and this is a wonderful example of what not to do. Pork funds for the High Point furniture market have shown up in past Civitas pork reports, identifying them as an expensive chauffer service for festival attendees. Next time you are trapped in gridlock on the highway remember that some of your legislators thought funding shuttle buses at a furniture festival was a better use of transportation funds than expanding roads necessary for economic growth.
Third, this bill is founded on flawed economic development strategy. Writing a check to the High Point furniture festival really is just writing a check. It doesn’t make North Carolina’s furniture industry any more competitive but it does guarantee that the festival will be back asking for more of your money when the next budget cycle rolls around. Lowering taxes for all businesses would do a lot more to promote economic growth.
HB 169 is a pork project that robs the highway fund without bringing any meaningful economic benefit to the citizens of North Carolina. The text of the bill goes ever farther to highlight the past success and economic impact of the festival and the furniture industry. If it is already so successful than why should taxpayers be forced to pay for it?
Together, HB 169 and its Senate companion SB 188 are just a 4 million dollar excuse for the sponsors to send press releases to their constituents about how they are “bringing home the bacon,” and that is why it’s the Bad Bill of the Week.