A package of economic incentives aimed at luring businesses to North Carolina is one vote away from reaching the Governor’s desk.
The Senate swiftly approved the bill on Tuesday, while the House gave a tentative approval, 84-24, after a lengthy and lively debate.
The plan would increase funding for the Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) program from $15 million to $20 million a year.
It could go as high as $35 million if the state attracts a large project, like an auto plant, that invests at least $500 million and adds at least 1,750 jobs.
Business could receive more generous incentives if they move to a poor county, while wealthier counties would need to add incentives of their own in order to receive a JDIG grant.
Some representatives, like Democratic Rep. Mickey Michaux from Durham, argued that lawmakers should focus on building a better quality of life instead.
“If we would just bolster our public education system, our higher education system…the people will come,” Michaux said. “If you build a better mousetrap, the people will come.”
Rep. Paul Stam, a Republican from Wake County, said the millions of dollars would be better spent building roads or extending water and sewer services.
“We could get 10 times the economic activity we’d get form this bill,” he said.
Democratic Rep. Bobbie Richardson, who represents Franklin and Nash counties, said the bill would help create jobs in economically depressed areas.
“We do need incentives to bring something to a Tarboro, or a Rocky Mount, or a Louisberg or a Wood, North Carolina, which many of you have never heard of,” she said.
Rep. Charles Jeter (R-Mecklenburg) echoed that sentiment.
“We can put our heads in the sand and act like it doesn’t matter, or we can do something to put North Carolinians who want to work back to work by giving them a chance to compete in our region,” he said.
Governor Pat McCrory has been looking to replenish JDIG all legislative session.
The House is expected to take a final vote on the measure Wednesday.