Market backers bend ears of legislative leaders

Mar. 27, 2013 @ 04:59 PM

Supporters of the High Point Market, who want to head off a slash to the trade show’s state funding, got a brief, personal audience with the two most powerful men in the N.C. General Assembly Wednesday.
During a lobbying trip to Raleigh through the Greensboro Partnership, the market backers met with and heard from House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.
The market supporters are trying to head off a cut in funding for the High Point Market Authority from $1.65 million to $800,000 by the middle of 2014. The cut was proposed last week by new Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in his $20.6 billion state budget proposal — a move that surprised and disappointed advocates of the trade show.
Market backers hope to prevent the cut by appealing to the General Assembly, which will craft its own version of a state budget that takes effect July 1.
High Point Market Authority President Tom Conley said he was pleased with the reception from legislators Wednesday. The delegation from High Point received support from partners in the region, especially Greensboro, in emphasizing the importance of state funding for the furniture market, Conley told The High Point Enterprise following the meetings.
Representatives for Tillis and Berger told the Enterprise that they recognize the importance of market to the state’s economy. State funding represents about one-third of the Market Authority’s $4.7 million annual budget.
“We will work closely with the stakeholders involved as we move through the budget process, which is in the very early stages in the General Assembly,” said Jordan Shaw, communications director for Tillis.
Berger said in a statement: “The Senate looks forward to reviewing the governor’s budget proposal in greater detail, and will then develop our own budget to address spending priorities. There is a strong awareness within the Senate of the importance of the furniture market to the economies of the state and Triad.”
Conley said that Tillis and Berger “commented favorably about our whole group’s efforts on behalf of the Market Authority.”
In addition to Tillis and Berger, market backers held personal meetings with other legislators and attended a luncheon to which 100 representatives and senators were invited.
Tillis and Berger didn’t make specific commitments about funding for the market, Conley said, “but their tone sounded very positive.”
However, Conley said market supporters will continue to press legislators about preserving state market funding at or near its current level.
“We need to make sure we are doing the best job we can to assure the funding continues,” Conley said.

pjohnson@hpe.com | 888-3528