tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

tocacco Cigarettes are smoking products consumed by people and made out of cut tobacco leaves. Cigars are typically composed completely of whole-leaf tobacco. A cigarette has smaller size, composed of processed leaf, and white paper wrapping. The term cigarette refers to a tobacco cigarette too but it can apply to similar devices containing other herbs, such as cannabis.
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Golden LEAF’s funds coveted

ROCKY MOUNT — Tucked away unobtrusively in a modern one-story stone, brick and glass building in this traditional tobacco town is one of the oddest governmental animals in the country - a cash cow in a time of austerity.

The building is the home of the Golden LEAF, a foundation controlled by political appointees that is sitting on $600 million.

While public agencies everywhere are having their budgets slashed, the Golden LEAF is likely to be flush with cash into the foreseeable future, or least as long as such major cigarette manufacturers as Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds keep selling packs of Marlboros, Virginia Slims and Camels.

Which is why Golden LEAF is now one of the prizes in North Carolina’s budget wars.

The fight over who controls Golden LEAF is one of the reasons that Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue this week vetoed a bill that the Republican-controlled legislature had passed. The legislature is enviously eyeing the foundation’s assets as it struggles to erase a projected $2.4 billion budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Senate Republican leader Phil Berger of Eden said no decision has been made on the future of Golden LEAF. But he said legislative leaders are asking a lot of tough questions.

“I think it’s time for us to take a look at what we’re doing with these public dollars,” Berger said in an interview. “They are dollars that belong to the people of North Carolina. Is Golden LEAF an entity doing what we think is the right thing to do with those dollars? Should the legislature delegate authority to allocate those dollars to the Golden LEAF board? Should the legislature exercise more control of the dollars that are there?”

But Dan Gerlach, the president of the Golden LEAF, has been walking halls of the Legislative Building, arguing that at a time when rural North Carolina is struggling, the foundation provides a unique resource to help communities bring in new jobs, or train people with new skills.

“We fill the gaps the other people can’t do,” Gerlach said.

North Carolina’s share

Golden LEAF is short for The Golden Long-Term Economic Advancement Foundation. It was created after the major cigarette companies settled a lawsuit brought by 46 states over health care costs associated with smoking in 1998.

As part of its share, North Carolina is expected to receive payments totaling $4.56 billion over a 25-year period. But in reality, the payments will continue as along as the companies keep selling cigarettes. So far the state has received $1.7 billion during the past 10 years, with half of that going to Golden LEAF.

Many states used the money from the tobacco settlement to pay health costs, such as financing their share of Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor. But North Carolina took a different tack.

It split the settlement money into three funds, with half going to the Golden LEAF. Its charter was to help areas hurt by tobacco’s decline - a sort of Marshall Plan for rural North Carolina. One of the key architects was former Gov. Mike Easley, who as attorney general also helped negotiate the settlement, and whose former top budget aide, Gerlach, now runs the organization.

Golden LEAF, which had a $600 million endowment as of December, is governed by a 15-member board appointed by the governor, the Senate president and House speaker. The foundation was started by Democrats and controlled by Democrats, and it has been mainly criticized by Republicans. But Republicans will soon be in a position to appoint board members, perhaps eventually gaining control.

The foundation has awarded 950 grants. They include $65,000 to help N.C. State University researchers find ways to make Christmas trees more pest resistant, $50,000 to buy a lathe and mill for steel training at a Haywood County High School, $1 million to help Winston-Salem recruit a Caterpillar plant, $347,180 to help the Martin County Arts Council renovate a historic building in downtown Williamston, and $800,000 to provide students and teachers in grades five to eight in Bladen County schools with iPods to increase academic performance.

The largest grant was $100 million given to the Global Transpark Authority to build a plant for Spirit AeroSystems as the first major tenant at the industrial park in Kinston. The company, which will build airplane fuselages, opened last year, and is expected to create 1,000 jobs over the next six years.

Other major expenditures included $41 million to the Flue-Cured Tobacco Cooperative Stabilization Corp., and $35.5 million to set up NCSU’s Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center.

There have been controversies. In 2009, a state audit found that Golden LEAF had failed to effectively oversee its grants, had violated open meetings laws, and had created potential political conflicts of interest. Among them was $30 million invested in Hatteras Venture Partners, a Triangle firm whose partners included John Crumpler, a long-time Democratic donor and $6 million invested in Carousel Capital, a Charlotte private equity firm co-founded by Erskine Bowles, the former president of the University of North Carolina, two-time Democratic U.S. Senate candidate and former chief of staff in the Clinton White House.

More recently, questions were raised about $300,000 given by Golden LEAF to UNC-TV, the public television network, which used the money to air positive stories about the foundation’s work.

Gerlach said Golden LEAF is providing a shot in the arm to some of the most distressed communities in North Carolina - and doing it with input of local residents.

“Our money is getting to those places where we were set up to help: the economically distressed counties that have felt the pain,” Gerlach said.

The fact that Golden LEAF is outside usual government structures, Gerlach said, gives it the flexibility to invest in what he calls “transformational” projects that can have long-term impact on communities.

Where the tobacco money goes, Gerlach says, is completely transparent - unlike other states, where the settlement money was merged into state budgets.

‘Accountability problem’

Conservative critics have asked why the tobacco settlement money needed to be outside normal state government channels, and beyond the control of the legislature or other state agencies.

“It’s an accountability problem, and it’s a priority setting problem,” said John Hood, president of the conservative John Locke Foundation. “The whole reason this has become an issue is that North Carolina has a massive budget deficit. Does anybody seriously believe, in the whole scheme of things, that projects funded by Golden LEAF are a higher budget priority than public safety or classroom teachers? I would suggest that the answer is clearly no.”

Hood said the foundation has also provided a way to get money for politically approved projects - such as $100 million to subsidize the airplane fuselage factory at the Global Transpark, which he argues would never have won legislative approval.

Golden LEAF became a focal point in the first confrontation between Perdue and the GOP legislature.

In preparing to deal with the budget shortfall, the Republican legislature sought to collect scattered funds, including $67.5 million headed to Golden Leaf, for use in the current budget year that ends June 30. GOP leaders said this was a temporary measure, but Perdue said this was a grab of money she needs for economic development.

Berger said because of the timing of the payments from the tobacco companies, the legislature was unlikely to try again to collect the Golden LEAF funds for this fiscal year. He said he remains sensitive to Golden LEAF’s mission, but larger questions remain.

“I am not prepared to say at this point it should stay exactly like it is or that I think it should be substantially changed,” he said. “I am prepared to say we should look at it.”

BY ROB CHRISTENSEN
[email protected] or 919-829-4532

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