In a slap to the state’s most impoverished counties, Pat McCrory’s budget steals $65 million from the Golden LEAF Foundation. For rural residents, Golden LEAF is like the goose that lays a golden egg. It’s non-tax revenue that provides benefits like schools, scholarships and infrastructure to areas that could never afford them on their own.
Specifically, it’s helped expand broadband in 69 rural counties, developing the infrastructure necessary to compete for jobs in the 21st century. It has provided scholarships to more than 8,000 students from our poorest regions so they could attend state universities and colleges. It has helped small farmers expand into new markets and offered loans to small business to start and grow. And the list goes on.
The money comes from the tobacco settlement and costs taxpayers nothing. While other states squandered their money, North Carolina wisely established Golden LEAF to help economically disadvantage areas, particularly those damaged by the decline of the tobacco industry. North Carolina gets roughly $130 million per year in payments, and traditionally, half has gone to Golden LEAF. More prudent administrations have protected the foundation’s money, understanding the struggles of our rural counties in the evolving global economy.
McCrory, instead, is pilfering the Golden LEAF money in order to fund his priorities. His budget takes the $65 million from the foundation to cover the $52 million it takes to eliminate an estate tax that only affects people with more than $5 million, $10 million for couples. How are legislators from counties like Tyrrell and Edgecombe, with poverty rates over 20%, going to look their constituents in the eye and say, “We gave away your Golden LEAF funds to give tax breaks to millionaires?”
For rural North Carolina, Golden LEAF is the goose that lays the golden eggs. Pat McCrory is cooking the goose.