April 20, 2011

Highlights as the 100-Day Agenda Proceeds

The legislature continues to work for needed progress in many areas. The “100 day agenda” seems to mirror the majority of our citizens according to surveys. It is a foremost objective to make our state much more attractive for businesses to create jobs! This means reversing the former policy of regular tax hikes to fuel increased government spending. We inherit the largest tax burden in our region of the country, which is stifling our families and businesses in this struggling economy.

We are committed to balancing the budget by reducing spending, despite the cry from some in Raleigh to raise taxes again. It is a fact that the last tax increase in 2009, in the midst of the Great Recession, was followed by the largest recorded job losses and foreclosures since the Great Depression. We must work to reverse that course, even amidst criticism from certain interest groups opposed to reductions in their programs. We must learn to prioritize limited resources, and spend within our means.

State government is divided as the governor opposes this agenda. This has never been more obvious than the past week, when the governor issued a string of vetoes and threatened more. It is clear that the lines are being drawn as the 2012 elections will determine whether there will be a real change in the state’s direction. I maintain that the borrow, tax and spend policies of the past decade are not sustainable.

This week, the House and Senate passed a continuing resolution budget. If the final budget were not passed by June 30, this would allow the Governor to continue funds for spending by state departments at a level that would balance the new budget without raising taxes. It is a measure intended to provide a level of certainty for state employees and the public. People do not want a standoff such as we have seen in Washington. However, the governor vetoed this legislation - a troubling sign. Several bills were recently passed to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on small businesses. A new Joint Commission on Regulatory Reform is also holding meetings across the state to address this matter. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation ranks North Carolina in the bottom ten in the country regarding the tax and regulation environment that affects job creation. We cannot afford to continue to lose jobs as we have.

The House and Senate have passed bills to help meet the demand for more charter schools. About 20,000 students remain on waiting lists as their parents want this choice. Public charter schools are less funded than traditional public schools, so this would also free more money per pupil for the traditional schools. It is a win-win situation. We are hopeful to pass a law this year, but it will require some Democratic support from either the governor or a few House members to override a potential veto.

Other bills are being passed to protect private property rights. Many address abuses regarding forced annexations. We expect to pass a comprehensive reform bill this year. Also, the House Judiciary Committee (on which I serve) passed the “Eminent Domain” constitutional amendment bill to protect private property rights.

The vast majority of NC voters surveyed believe that a voter ID law will help protect the integrity of elections. The House Elections committee has passed this bill, but there was vigorous opposition and the vote was divided on straight party lines. Our bill is modeled on the Indiana and Georgia laws that were upheld in the Supreme Court.

We took a step toward better government by passing a constitutional amendment bill that would limit the Speaker or President Pro Tem to no more than two consecutive terms. Too much power is not a good thing, as has been evidenced unfortunately. Speaker Tillis and President Pro Tem Berger are to be commended for leading the effort on this good bill. The Governor cannot veto a constitutional amendment.

These are just some of the recent highlights. There is much in Raleigh that needs to be addressed. We will do what we can in a reasonable time frame, given the restraint of divided government. We remain hopeful that we can accomplish enough this year to put our state on a better track. Please pray for wisdom for us as we proceed.