SB 861: Furniture Subsidy Has No Leg to Stand On

Bad Bill of the Week

North Carolina is a fantastic state in which to live. It has oceans, mountains, and lovely locations in between. For instance, in the middle of the state we find the city of High Point. Ask anyone about High Point and their response is sure to include the topic of furniture. Every year, the High Point Furniture Market has its semi-annual spring and fall events. These events are essentially trade shows geared toward furniture manufacturers and retailers, and are not open for the perusing of the general public.

The Furniture Market claims that it is quite an asset to High Point and North Carolina, eliciting much positive attention for the state. But if that is true, why is a government bailout needed to help the Market stay afloat? Is it fair for struggling taxpayers to be forced to subsidize High Point’s famous trade show? Some legislators in the General Assembly believe so.

SB 861, “High Point Furniture Market Funds,” is a bill sponsored unsurprisingly by Rep. Don Vaughan (D-Guilford) and Rep. Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford), both of whom are from the High Point area. It is apparent that Reps. Vaughan and Robinson are trying to “bring home the bacon” to their districts at the expense of taxpayers across the state.

The bill proposes to use more than $2 million dollars in taxpayer funds to subsidize the Furniture Market trade show. $806,478 is to be appropriated from the General Fund to the Department of Commerce in order to prop up the High Point Market Authority, the organization tasked with putting on the trade show.

In defense of this exorbitantly high cost, the bill’s authors posit that the Furniture Market must be subsidized because of its rich history, the revenue it brings into state coffers, and the employees that are gainfully employed because of its existence. In other words, the operation is too big to fail. This mindset is all too common in our era of Big Government, where the state picks winners and losers in the economic realm.

Adding insult to injury, SB 861 seeks to also appropriate money from the Highway Fund to the Department of Transportation, which will then bequeath the money to the High Point Market Authority. Are you sitting down? If not, you may want to do so. The amount to be appropriated is $1.2 million dollars, supposedly to cover transportation costs to and from the High Point Furniture Market. The Furniture Market proudly advertises “free” transportation for attendees. However, it must be remembered that there is no such thing as a free lunch, or a free ride. Hardworking taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill for this “free” shuttle service.

The point here is simple: should North Carolina’s government, which is funded by hardworking taxpaying citizens, intervene on behalf of the High Point Furniture Market, giving it an unfair advantage over other trade shows in North Carolina? The answer is unequivocally “no.” North Carolinians should first consider why the Furniture Market is in need of a subsidy. If the Market is faltering, perhaps it is an inefficient enterprise in need of reform, not a taxpayer funded bailout.

Bailing out an industry does not work on a federal level; we have seen this to be true in recent years. That principle also applies to state governments. Because it uses taxpayer funds for a pork project to bailout a business venture that should be self-sufficient, SB 861 receives this week’s “Bad Bill of the Week.”

NOTE: The High Point Furniture Market is a repeat winner of Bad Bill of the Week, it also won the honor last year.

This article was posted in Bad Bill of the Week by Scott Blakeman on May 25, 2012 at 9:00 AM.

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