Thanking taxpayers – Is MCNC’s $30M gift enough?

When nonprofit MCNC made $200 million last year from the sale of a spin-off, it offered $30 million to the N.C. government to repay the state for its investment over the years, the Raleigh News & Observer reported June 10.

For three state leaders, it’s not enough.

House Speaker Jim Black wants at least $100 million more from the group. Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight also wants more, though he has not named a number. Gov. Jim Hunt is willing to “explore” whether a bigger contribution is appropriate, a spokesman told the N&O.

All three agree that the first $30 million should go towards Internet access for rural dwellers. The rest could fund water and sewer lines, industrial site developments and other recommendations on the rural task force led by former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.

Molly Broad, MCNC board member and president of the

University of North Carolina system, questioned whether rural economic development ventures are an appropriate use of the funds.

Broad noted that federal research funds regularly back projects that lead to commercial applications and profit. If the federal government demanded a piece of the profit, it would have a “chilling effect” on all kinds of research and government, she said.

Meetings are unlikely before MCNC CEO Bill Kress returns from an overseas vacation.

The nonprofit was founded 20 years ago as the Micrelectronics Center of North Carolina. MCNC received more than $250 million in state funding since its founding, but had its state funding cut off last summer by lawmakers dissatisfied with MCNC’s results.

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