Once again N.C. Governor Roy Cooper has shown his disdain and disinterest in helping small business owners across the state as they work overtime to recover from both the national and state mandated restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as the 4th of July weekend was to begin the governor vetoed Senate Bill 116.
That bill would, if initiated, put more people back to work and in the process get the state’s economy moving forward in advance of what many economists fear will become an economic disaster as the country hurdles towards rapid inflation.
Republican legislators, concerned with the thousands of unmet job opportunities that are stymieing, if not crippling, many small businesses across the state, sent Senate Bill 116, “Putting N.C. Back to Work Act” to the governor for his approval. This bill, narrowly passed in both chambers on a partisan vote, would withdraw the state from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation agreement.
The federal program, scheduled to end Sept. 6 of this year, provides an additional $300 weekly stipend to those receiving state unemployment compensation. That benefit, many business owners have discovered, is a dis-incentive for those receiving the benefit to go to work. And because of this, small businesses find themselves having to compete with state and federal programs that they are, paradoxically, supporting through unemployment taxes.
All the states with conservative, Republican, leadership have been withdrawing from the program over the past three months as both the national and local economies have begun recovering from the pandemic quarantines. The result is those states are seeing a resurgence in employment numbers with subsequent economic improvements.
The strong opposition to withdrawal from the federal program by most of the Democrat legislators signaled to Gov. Cooper that his veto will hold if the Republican leadership attempts a veto override. An override requires a super majority in both chambers.
It is interesting and ironic that Gov. Cooper likes to use incentives to create jobs when it comes to publicity/ribbon cutting events but has no concern about incentives that work directly against this initiative.
Over the past year and a half, as small businesses statewide have suffered under the governor’s draconian and often arbitrary business restrictions, such as the forced closure of bars, restaurants and other service providers, he has gleefully announced the planned opening of new major corporate operations. Almost all of them have been enticed to locate in the state with taxpayer funded Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG) which are ostensibly for use in low wealth counties. Many of these announced locations, contrary to the JDIG goals, have occurred in high wealth communities.
The most glaring example of the governor’s bias to large company investments was the recent announcement that computer giant Apple will locate a campus in Research Triangle Park. The company was enticed to locate here with a $485 million JDIG grant.
The conclusion of this and other similar announcements is that Gov. Cooper’s real incentive involves creating opportunities to stand with corporate titans at major publicity events that serve to increase his public image and improve his financial opportunities should he decide to run for public office in the future.
While the federal program is scheduled to end in two months, coincidentally right after Labor Day, the need for workers in both service and manufacturing industries has become acute. For our local hospitality industry the labor shortage has become so critical and hard to solve that many businesses are reducing hours of operations and services, which in turn negatively impacts the local economy. But these facts do not factor into the governor’s political agenda.
In contorted logic, the governor has given as his excuse for the continuing the federal program that, “Prematurely stopping these benefits hurts our state by sending back money that could be injected into our economy with people using it for things like food and rent.” But that also is the reason to go back to work - to earn a wage- to use the money earned “for things like food and rent.”
From a progressive Democrat’s perspective such as Cooper’s, government funds are “free money.” From a realistic perspective, government funding is not “free money” but taxpayer supported money. His argument is both illogical and dangerous.
The continued reliance on federal support only serves to degrade private enterprise which will continue to struggle with reduced services and increased costs resulting in inflationary pressures that eventually hurt the low and middle income families nationwide.
The time to let the private sector and capitalism work unfettered by government controls and largess is now. The quicker Democrat legislators accept this fact, turning from a destructive economic path and voting to override the governor, the quicker our economy will rebound with less of a long term expense. But time is running out and political pressures is needed now. Just ask any local business owner.