Editorial: This budget cut isn't conservative

Apr. 03, 2013 @ 10:06 AM

One of the frequent criticisms of moderates is that they don’t hold true to core tenets that more avid members of their party believe are vital.

In politics, a synonym for moderation is pragmatism, the land from which leaders in the furniture industry now are beckoning Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly in an attempt to head off a McCrory budget proposal that aligns well with free-market ideals but not so well with reality.

McCrory wants the state to get out of the business of helping pay for the High Point Market, the furniture industry’s two annual premier trade shows. In recent years, the state’s funding for it has dropped from $2 million a year to $1.65 million, but McCrory wants that cut to $800,000 next fiscal year and to zero after that.

This is consistent with the refrain that government shouldn’t be in the business of helping to pick winners and losers, or providing substantial subsidies to private businesses.

But as furniture industry executives made clear in a letter to the General Assembly’s leaders, released Tuesday, it’s a position at odds with the realities facing the industry right now, and it’s a fair bet that the loss of state funding for the market could lead to erosion of High Point’s standing as the site of the industry’s top trade shows – which in turn would have ripple effects in the state’s job market.

Already in recent years trade shows in Las Vegas, though a relative youngster as a show host in comparison to furniture country’s traditional home, have rapidly gained audience.

Think of the furniture industry like NASCAR. They have quite a bit in common. Decades ago, both were firmly rooted in the South. But as the years have passed, those regional ties aren’t what they once were – indeed, in furniture the market is global – and the pull of tradition can’t be counted on to counter purely business-related considerations.

That High Point always has been the site of the top trade shows doesn’t mean it has an edge to maintain that status any more than the North Wilkesboro Speedway’s history as one of the first tracks in NASCAR ensured that it always would host at least one race in the sport’s premier circuit.

NASCAR left North Wilkesboro when the men making the money decided they could make more money somewhere else.

The state of North Carolina now is being asked by its governor to remove one-third of the money used to fund the High Point Market. How long do you figure it will take the folks in Las Vegas to find a way to offer up $2 million to make that city the site of events that Doug Bassett, the chairman of the High Point Market Authority, compared to having the economic impact of two Super Bowls a year?

North Carolina does not exist in a vacuum. To make budget choices as though it were is not conservative, it is reckless.