RALEIGH, N.C. — “Folks like to think the sky is falling because a sporting event is moved out of state,” joked Andrew Heath, Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget director, on Aug. 15 at a presentation to the John Locke Foundation. The comment alludes to the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, which was moved out of Charlotte in protest of House Bill 2 (HB2), a law that discriminates against transgender people.
If Heath were to be believed, the event was merely that — a few days’ worth of entertainment, no big deal. Unfortunately, what this budget “expert” failed to mention was the enormous economic impact of the event — and the other revenue lost to North Carolina because of HB2.
The NBA All-Star Game would have meant $100 million added to the Charlotte economy, according to The Charlotte Observer. The week-long event would have been the biggest attraction in the city since the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
Heath’s comment amounts to not only denial, but comedic dismissal of the huge impact this law has had on the North Carolina economy. More than tourist dollars, HB2 has also cost the state job opportunities, as companies like PayPal have canceled their plans to expand into North Carolina due to the law.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, McCrory’s opponent in the gubernatorial race, did not hesitate to comment.
“How can we expect Governor McCrory to stop the job losses if he won’t event admit it’s a problem?” read a statement by Cooper campaign spokesperson Jamal Little. “McCrory may try to pretend nothing is wrong, but the truth is HB2 has cost our state thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Although Little’s estimate sounds extreme, it is actually conservative. According to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, the risk of losing federal funding means that HB2 could cost North Carolina up to $5 billion per year. Federal money for the state is on tenuous ground, given the lawsuits between McCrory’s administration and the Justice Department.
Early in August, federal Judge Thomas Schroeder heard arguments regarding an injunction to halt the most harmful effects of HB2, the dictate that public bathrooms be entered according to a person’s gender at birth. As of press time, Schroeder has not yet made a decision in the case. The more comprehensive court date for HB2 lawsuits is set for mid-November.