Members of the Wilmington City Council
met with Rep. Susi Hamilton, Rep. Ted Davis, Rep. Rick Catlin and
Sen. Thom Goolsby to discuss the city's legislative agenda for 2013
on Feb. 18.
City officials discussed ways to
increase the local revenue stream and preserve the revenue they are
currently bringing in. Council and state reps were in agreement that
tax credits extended to the film industry should be preserved.
Rep. Hamilton said that 30 percent of
North Carolina counties are currently receiving benefits from the
film industry, not just New Hanover. New Hanover County has been the
epicenter of film activity in the state because of Screen Gems
Studios, but 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,” said Davis. “It's not as if they
wanna 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 don't know or have
appreciation for topic such as coastal issues and the movie industry
that don't pertain to their counties.
“They have no idea the impact that it
can have,” Davis said.
Goolsby mentioned the general assembly
has not yet gotten into tax reform this year, their time has been
focused on medicaid and unemployment insurance.
Talk later turned to pursuing the
reestablishment of a rail line from Castle Hayne to Wallace, with
Catlin noting that 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 has been working for a very long time on
the topic. Councilwoman Laura Padgett recalled working with Catlin on
the topic 15 to 18 years ago.
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.”
Towards the end of the meeting, Goolsby
announced that he intends to file a bill that would excuse Monkey
Junction residents from $100,000 in property taxes from the six-month
period 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 the
Monkey Junction were annexed by the city in Jan. 2012; however, a
court ruling six months later decided changes made to state
annexation laws by the General Assembly were unconstitutional.