Two North Carolina legislators, one Democrat and one Republican, one NC senator and one NC House rep have proposed legislation that would allow a raid on funds managed by the Golden Leaf Foundation to help the state meet its financial obligations.
Stam, R-Wake, and N.C. Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, have filed separate bills redirecting future tobacco settlement money to the state’s general fund.
Clodfelter’s bill would redirect funding from the foundation for the next three years, while Stam’s bill would cut off Golden LEAF permanently.
The Golden LEAF Foundation was established to manage a portion of the tobacco settlement money so it will benefit those areas of the state hardest hit by the decline in tobacco production. Grants are awarded for a wide variety of economic development projects. Recently it was announced money would be available from the fund to pay for retraining workers in jobs that are available now.
The Golden LEAF Foundation said Friday it will has $3.5 million for non-profits that develop short-term programs giving workers new skills. Foundation president Dan Gerlach said there are jobs in sheet metal fabrication and weatherization.
North Carolina is in a huge budget crunch with more demands on revenues than can be met, but raiding money earmarked for areas of the state that are already economically underdeveloped isn't the best idea floating around out there. The foundation is working to help meet some of the state's needs through many of its grants and programs.
The foundation announced last week a series of initiatives to stabilize the state’s faltering economy, including earmarking $3 million for college scholarships for children from rural counties and $10 million for projects to increase agriculture jobs across the state. The foundation, Gerlach said, also is investing millions of dollars to train workers for the growing aerospace industry.
“I respect the tough economic times and the tough budget choices the state is facing,” Gerlach said. “As Gov. (Mike) Easley’s former budget adviser, I know the tough things they are facing well.
“But I don’t understand why rural North Carolina and tobacco-dependent regions are expected to take a 100 percent hit. Obviously, we are trying to do exactly what the governor talked about (in her State of the State address) — put money to work in North Carolina toward jobs because it’s only jobs that are going to get us out of the economic bad times we’re in.”
I've heard mixed reviews on some of the projects funded by Golden LEAF, but I still don't care for the idea. However, if it is the only solution, I like Clodfelter's three year raid on the funds far more than Stam's permanent plunder.