From Senator Chuck Edwards' Desk - TribPapers

From Senator Chuck Edwards’ Desk

Staff photo.

Raleigh – After an intense six weeks, my last session in the North Carolina Senate has come to an end. In this session, we had numerous successful pieces of legislation and were able to bring home millions more for western North Carolina in the 2022 Budget.

Following are some highlights from this year’s short session.

Adjustments to Buncombe County Occupancy Tax Expected to Lead to New Growth

Now, more than ever, it is critical that we strengthen the industries that support our economy. In Buncombe County, one of those major industries is tourism.

Earlier this year, it was brought to my attention that the current divide in Buncombe County’s Tourism Development Authority fund was stripping the community of opportunities to improve the county to encourage longer visits by requiring the majority of funds, 75%, go towards marketing and only 25% towards local projects and venues.

These distributions have been stifling tourism and economic growth. For that reason, I worked with stakeholders across Asheville and Buncombe County to pass House Bill 1057, which redistributes TDA funds to create a 66%/33% split, granting more money towards community-oriented projects and reducing the distribution allocated towards marketing the City of Asheville. The remaining 1% will be evenly allocated towards the Tourism Product Development Fund and the Legacy Investment from Tourism Fund, both created by the TDA.

It will be enlightening to see a greater portion of taxpayer dollars directly invested back into Buncombe County to better the community for residents and visitors alike. More projects than ever will have an opportunity to be funded through the TDA, and adjusting these funds will improve both the tourism and lodging industries, producing a stronger local economy overall in Buncombe County.

I was thrilled to take the lead on this initiative and am proud we were able to get it accomplished. I look forward to watching the ways in which this redistribution will help Buncombe County thrive, and assist them in continuing to flourish as one of the leading tourism hubs in North Carolina.

** TDA funds are made up of the hotel and occupancy tax revenues in Buncombe County.

More Money for WNC in State Budget

When I first entered the North Carolina Senate I made a promise that western NC would never get left behind. I am elated to say that this is once again true, and I have helped to secure another $26 million that will go directly into Henderson, Buncombe, and Transylvania Counties!

During this session, my colleagues and I worked diligently to craft another budget that would spend a portion of the surplus left over from the 2021 Budget. Due to the fact that we were working with a surplus and not the full annual budget, funds were limited making efforts to gain funding for localities more difficult than in traditional budget years. Nonetheless, we brought home funding to support infrastructure development, pro-life pregnancy centers, economic development projects, and other western-based non-profits.

Below is a breakdown of where all $26 million was allocated throughout District 48:
$1M to Henderson County to use for public projects.
$500,000 to Transylvania County to use for public projects.
$2.75M to Buncombe County for a flood mitigation project in Barnardsville.
$200,000 to Buncombe County for park development in Fairview.
$500,000 in directed grants to First Contact Ministries, Inc. in Henderson County bringing their total grant to $2 million for FY 2022-23
$500,000 in directed grants to Open Arms Pregnancy Center in Hendersonville.
$500,000 in funding to Marketing Association for Rehabilitation Centers (MARC), Inc. a nonprofit in Fletcher, NC.
$300,000 grant to Conserving Carolina for dam repairs in Hendersonville.
$500,000 grant to Edneyville Volunteer Fire & Rescue, Inc. for capital improvements or equipment.
$500,000 directed grant to Mountain Area Pregnancy Services in Buncombe County and $50,000 for services in Asheville.
$100,000 of federal Substance Abuse Block Grant funds for First Step Farm of WNC, Inc. in Buncombe County.
$4 million grant to Mountain Area Health Education Center for capital improvements or equipment in Asheville.

This funding coupled with original allocations in the FY 2021-23 Budget will only further assist local governments and non-profits in producing services that will further benefit the mountain folks of WNC.

While I am overwhelmingly grateful for all we have accomplished for the district, I know many of you may not be able to read this without fear for your personal, or North Carolina’s, future if a recession does take place. I want to assure you that North Carolina IS prepared for a recession. We have spent the last decade working to ensure we have a hardy financial foundation to protect our economic strength in the face of a recession. This year we even went a step further by creating the “State Inflationary Reserve”.

The State Inflationary Reserve puts aside $1 billion to brace for a possible recession and further allocates over $385 million to protect against economic headwinds, such as increased construction costs and other inflation. To put it succinctly: NC is prepared to handle a recession.

All in all, I am proud to have voted yes on a budget that once again gives western NC its fair share.

To get legislative news closer to the time it’s happening, be sure to follow Senator Edwards on Facebook or his website.