September 6, 2007
RALEIGH – A government-sponsored group lobbying for corporate tax incentives in Cumberland County refuses to release details about a study used to support its claims. That’s the assessment of a John Locke Foundation researcher studying the proposed incentives.
“The Cumberland County Business Council cites an impact study commissioned ‘several years ago’ that justifies a $40 million tax giveaway for Fayetteville’s Goodyear plant,” said Joseph Coletti, JLF Fiscal Policy Analyst. “But the council won’t release any details from the study. Council staff won’t tell us whether taxpayers paid for the study. They won’t even tell us which ‘nationwide consulting firm’ wrote it.”
The details are important, Coletti said. The General Assembly returns to Raleigh Monday to consider overturning Gov. Mike Easley’s veto of the incentives plan. Easley rejected House Bill 1761 last week. That bill — crafted for the Goodyear plant — could give the Ohio-based company tax breaks for the next 10 years.
“The governor had legitimate reasons to reject this legislation, including the prospect that Goodyear could continue to take advantage of tax breaks after cutting as many as 750 jobs,” Coletti said. “The Cumberland County Business Council claims it has a study that should convince lawmakers to overturn that veto. Those claims can’t be very strong if the council won’t release the study.”
The council gets a portion of its funding from government agencies, Coletti said. “How much funding is unclear,” he said. “A Web site that monitors non-profit tax filings suggests the council gets 57 percent of its money from government agencies. A council spokeswoman tells me that information is old, but she won’t share with me the up-to-date information.”
The secrecy should concern any lawmakers relying on the Cumberland County group’s lobbying efforts, he said. “Whether you support targeted tax incentives or reject them in principle, no one should base a decision on H.B. 1761 on the vague claims the Cumberland County Business Council has tried to inject into the debate.”
The N.C. House reconvenes 2 p.m. Monday to address Easley’s veto. “Lawmakers have plenty of reasons to say ‘no’ to this targeted tax incentives package,” Coletti said. “The Cumberland County Business Council has not given them a compelling reason to say ‘yes.’”