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Candidates speak about education, the economy and taxes

By Catherine Hunter –

Education, jobs and the economy was on the minds and tongues of North Carolina candidates during a forum Thursday, September 20. Most said strengthening the education system was a good way to address the issues facing state and local economies.

Other key issues the candidates discussed included regulations on businesses, especially small businesses and reducing the tax burden.

“Businesses are going where the regulations and taxes are the least,” said Republican Mark Meadows running for North Carolina 11th Congressional District. “One in six Americans live in poverty and we have 47 million on food stamps. If we increase taxes we’ll have a recession.”

Hayden Rogers, who is also running for the 11th District, was not present to counter Meadows ideas, so forum moderator and WLOS TV News Anchor, Frank Framboni, moved on to Phil Feagan who is running on the Democrat ticket for Senate District 47.

Feagan’s platform centers around strengthening education. “Education is the key to improving the economy,” he said. “We’re now 45th in the country for pupil spending. That’s unacceptable.”

Feagan’s opponent, incumbent Ralph Hise, agreed that education was a key factor in turning things around for North Carolina, but says big government is much to blame.

“I’m seeing the bureaucracy in Raleigh sucking the life out of education,” said Hise. “75 percent of our high school graduates can’t perform at college level.”

Taxes became the next topic up for discussion as the moderator continued down the table to Republican Jim Davis who is running for Senate District 50 in the counties just west of Buncombe.

“I really like the Fair Tax,” said Davis. “It would do away with embedded taxes such as the income tax, withholding, capital gains, corporate, inheritance, Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Davis pointed out if the US adopted the Fair Tax, we’d have nine to ten trillion dollars currently invested overseas, to put back into the US economy. When asked about high North Carolina gas taxes, Davis said we couldn’t accurately compare it with other states because, in North Carolina, the state government handles all the road paving.

“It’s apples to oranges,” said Davis who also expressed concern about the state’s infrastructure needs.

Democrat Susan Wilson who is running for NC House District 115, said tax incentives to attract new business into the area was a viable solution. She said she wanted to help create a “made in Western North Carolina” incentives program.

“Even in the good times, Western North Carolina has struggled,” said Wilson’s opponent, Republican Nathan Ramsey, who added that much of the current NC road and infrastructure system was designed during the depression.

“The state thinks that North Carolina ends at interstate 77,” Ramsey said. “Raleigh takes a ‘one-size-fits’ all attitude. That doesn’t serve Western North Carolina.”

Democrat Jane Whilden, who is opposing incumbent Tim Moffitt for House District 116, said her opponent was proposing taking the water system away from the city.

“I don’t think the people want that kind of change,” Whilden said. “There’s property rights questions that need to be answered.”

Moffit countered by saying there was a significant lack of understanding who currently manages the water system and that the current system of governance did not include many of those using the water.

“I think it [water system] could be better governed by representatives of all of the water system’s users,” Moffitt said.

Congressman Ray Rapp, who is running for re-election in Madison, Yancey and Haywood counties thanked the sponsors of the forum, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce and the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce for including, “… an outsider.” he said.

“The number one issue is job creation and education,” said Rapp. “The two are intertwined.”

The forum took place at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce located at 36 Montford Avenue and Independent Asheville Radio 1350 AM WZGM broadcast it live.

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