Members of the Wilmington City Council met on Feb. 18 with Rep. Susi Hamilton, Rep. Ted Davis Jr., Rep. Rick Catlin and Sen. Thom Goolsby to discuss the city’s legislative agenda for 2013.
City officials discussed ways to increase the local revenue stream and preserve the revenue the city is currently bringing in. Council and state reps were in agreement that tax credits extended to the film industry should be preserved.
Rep. Hamilton said 30 percent of North Carolina counties are currently receiving benefits from the film industry, not just New Hanover County, even though this has been the epicenter of film activity in the state because of EUE/Screen Gems Studios. The film industry has been taking advantage of state tax credits as far west as Asheville.
“Clearly with the film industry, [tax credits] make it or break it,” Davis said. “It’s not as if they want to see whether or not we’re going to do it, it’s expected. If we don’t, they’ll pack up their bags up and move to a state that does.”
Davis stressed the importance of educating those in the General Assembly that do not know of or have an appreciation for topics like coastal issues and the movie industry.
“They have no idea the impact that it can have,” Davis said.
Goolsby mentioned the General Assembly has not yet discussed tax reform this year. Its time has been focused on Medicaid and unemployment insurance, Goolsby said.
Talk later turned to pursuing the re-establishment of a rail line from Castle Hayne to Wallace, with Catlin noting that the cost of transportation was one of the major impediments facing trade from the state’s ports.
Hamilton said she believed momentum leaned in favor of making progress with a rail line, noting that several people in the room have been working for a very long time on the topic. City councilwoman Laura Padgett recalled working with Catlin 15 to 18 years ago on the issue.
Offshore drilling for natural gas was also briefly addressed at the meeting, with councilman Kevin O’Grady asking to see the same rigorous examination of the process as the offshore wind industry is currently receiving.
Padgett recalled a trip to Santa Barbara, where a 25-year-old oil spill was still leaving tar on the bottom of visitors’ shoes.
Goolsby said the area being looked at for offshore natural gas exploration was much smaller than the areas being looked at for offshore wind.
Catlin acknowledged that offshore drilling is a process that “needs to be done right.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Goolsby announced that he intends to file a bill that would excuse Monkey Junction residents from $100,000 in taxes for the six-month period that they were annexed by the city.
“We don’t want to bill these Monkey Junction residents for such a short time and for such limited city operational costs if at all possible,” stated Mayor Saffo in a press release following the meeting. “It doesn’t seem fair with all the controversy surrounding this situation.”
Approximately 1,000 acres of Monkey Junction were annexed by the city in January 2012; however, a court ruling six months later decided changes made to state annexation laws by the General Assembly were unconstitutional.
When new annexation laws were passed in July 2012 that required the city to gain a majority of property owner’s approval before an area could be annexed, the city of Wilmington decided not to pursue annexation any longer.