When N.C. Republicans came into power in the House, Senate and governorship — for the first time in 143 years — their mission statement was to finally bring state spending in line with revenues. Inheriting billions in debt and myriad other problems, their task was daunting. North Carolina had the highest taxes in the Southeast. Among other accomplishments, they streamlined state government, increased private-sector jobs, and were still able to provide a 2.5 percent increase in overall spending, including education — an unbelievable accomplishment in a poor economy.
Led by Speaker of the House of Representatives Thom Tillis, Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger, and Gov. Pat McCrory, they cut corporate and personal income tax rates for all, increased deductions for working families, and brought unemployment spending in line with surrounding states. Increasing private-sector jobs, legislators eliminated burdensome and obsolete regulations on businesses and farms, simplified our 1930’s Depression-era tax code, eliminated the death tax (saving farms and small businesses), and ended dozens of special interest loopholes.
Republican legislators spent almost $7.9 billion on K-12 education, an increase of 2.1 percent. Teachers had not had a pay increase in several years, but still received one, albeit too small, in terrible financial conditions. Superintendents met with legislators and asked for more hiring and firing flexibility. Tenured teachers, even the worst ones, previously had a job for life. Now, as before, all teachers have a process to protect their rights, and as in other professions, top performers will receive top pay.
In transportation, funding for projects is now done according to need, instead of where the most powerful politicians live, as demonstrated by a renewed focus on Asheville’s I-26 connector plans.
Although the number of days of early voting decreased, total hours of early voting remain the same. Polls can now be open earlier and stay open later — better for shift workers, those who work far away, and anyone needing assistance or rides. The governor’s party controls election boards. The new state board, under Republicans, found that many people had registered both here and in other states, deceased active voters, voters with non-existing addresses, and other problems previously uncovered. It is the discretion of county boards to observe and report fraud; they weren’t required to report it. Wolves watching henhouses never do it well. Several statewide polls found that more than 65 percent of voters wanted voter ID to protect their votes.
Has everything been fixed perfectly in one year of Republican leadership? Of course not. Is N.C. much better off? You bet. During May’s short session, they’ll try to fix many problems learned during the past months in committee. Get documentation at ncleg.com or nchousespeaker.com.
Henry Mitchell is chair, Buncombe GOP.