Gov. Cooper opposes tax cuts for corporations in general, not particular. It’s a fine distinction.

These past few months I’ve become increasingly distressed at the sheer desperation among state leaders to expand economic incentives. It’s poor governance, playing favorites and picking “winners.” Beyond that, though, it’s so absolutely bloody unnecessary:

We’ve achieved the kind of economy a state wants to have. We’re at full employment. We don’t need to beg. We don’t need to sweeten the pot. We’re open to all kinds of industry, big or small. …

North Carolina has become the model state for sound economic policies yielding strong economic growth.

So I’m gobsmacked at the enormous giveaways from Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican-led General Assembly, first with 2017’s “transformative project” nonsense (the budgeting equivalent of an open till at a klepto conference) and then with this year’s budget transforming the transformative project incentives into something even more spendy.

Among a spate of questions for everyone involved, I asked:

Isn’t Cooper known for moralizing against corporate tax cuts? He even equated them to a cult ritual. “We cannot sacrifice education at the altar of even more corporate tax cuts or giveaways that are mostly for the wealthiest.” Remember that one? So full of self-righteousness and pablum.

So why is he and his administration now so in favor of this wide-open, irresponsible, jaw-dropping special corporate tax treatment?

The July cover of Business North Carolina hints at the answer. Behold the business journal praising the political giftmaster:

And there we have it. That cover explains why a governor who regarded business tax cuts like ritual sacrifices to Ba’al now leads the cult for certain businesses.

Rolling up his sleeves to play favorites

Personally, I prefer the iconography of rolling up one’s sleeves to hew more closely to doing actual physical labor, not to euphemize taking advantage of existing businesses and taxpayers by giving government favors to others. Still, it’s what Cooper gets:

But Cooper’s workhorse style is paying off for North Carolina, says John Boyd, a Princeton, N.J.-based site-selection consultant. Should Apple or Amazon place much-discussed major office projects in the Triangle, Boyd predicts Cooper’s national profile will soar. “Despite being a Democrat on fiscal issues, Cooper has done a number of things we like, and our clients have a good relationship with his office,” he says. “They are willing to negotiate and deliver incentives.”

While disputes between Cooper and the GOP-dominated N.C. General Assembly have become routine, the two sides have come together on key economic-development issues. Both agreed to fatten the incentives offered for “transformational” projects that involve more than 3,000 jobs and $1 billion in investment. The move was deemed essential for the state to compete against aggressive rivals. Separately, both Cooper and the legislators backed an unprecedented $3 billion bond issue to expand and improve state roads, bypassing the voter referendum usually required for such massive debt.

North Carolina’s motto is Esse Quam Videri, To Be Rather Than to Seem. But Cooper and the big business community are not content for us to be the model state for sound economic policies leading to job creation and strong economic growth.

They’d rather it seem the governor “creates jobs” by rolling up his sleeves to slop the tech giants and other corporate cronies.

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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