MONROE – The all-Republican Union County state legislative delegation touted the successes over the last several years by the Republican-dominated General Assembly at the Union County Chamber of Commerce Public Policy Luncheon on Sept. 27.
The event was designed for the county’s elected state representatives to discuss issues affecting the business community.
The five legislators – N.C. representatives Dean Arp, Mark Brody, Craig Horn and N.C. senators Tommy Tucker and Paul Newton — addressed chamber members at South Piedmont Community College.
But Newton threw some caution to the wind during the event. Newton, who represents N.C. Senate District No. 36 which includes a part of Union County, said things could change in Raleigh if Democrats win control of the General Assembly in the Nov. 6 general election. Republicans currently hold super-majorities in both chambers of the legislature.
Newton said that who is elected in November will be critical to the business community.
“I encourage you, and to encourage your family, to vote for people that have a pro-jobs agenda,” Newton said. “That typically means a Republican vote. We have worked hard in the legislature as Republicans to create structural, fundamental reform in this state to make it attractive for manufacturers and headquarters to locate here.
“We need to be bold about explaining why businesses should be located in North Carolina. Forbes Magazine has said that North Carolina is the No. 1 state in which to do business. As Republicans up here, we are committed to improving that. We are not going to get complacent. We are going to continue to eliminate duplicate regulation, we are going to try and continue to lower taxes. It is true, and I have got to say it. If the Democrats control the legislature, all the tax cuts will probably go away as quickly as they can take them away.”
N.C. Rep. Dan Arp, who represents State House District 69, said lowering tax rates while watching state spending has boosted the state’s economy. He said the unemployment rate in the county is around 3.6 percent.
“We have a winning strategy of what we have done so far,” Arp said. “You won’t see us deviate much from where we are currently. We have been able to lower personal income tax rates as well as business income tax rates. What that is going to do is promote economic growth. You will see us focus on responsible spending in the government on the budget side. The direction is set and that has spurred economic growth. We have a great program right now and I don’t see us changing that.”
N.C. Rep. Mark Brody represents part of Union County and Anson County. Brody said he will continue to remove what he called burdensome regulations that hamper economic growth in the state.
“Somebody asked me what we, what am I going to do (if re-elected),” Brody said. “Basically, I said, ‘I’m going to do what I have done for the last six years. Regulation, I go after that. We are loaded with regulations that we don’t need.”
N.C. Rep. Craig Horn, who represents western Union County, said providing businesses and industry with skilled employees will continue to be a top priority. Providing a quality early education is key to that, Horn said. Last year, the General Assembly created the Birth to Third Grade (B-3) Interagency Council that is tasked with establishing a vision and accountability for a birth to third grade system of early education.
“I deal primarily with education issues,” Horn said. “Education issues are incredibly important to the business community, you all know that. We have got to make significant strides, improvements, on how we are preparing kids for school. Another area that is critical to your success is what we are doing with CTE (Career Technical Education). We hear that not every kid needs a four-year degree, well of course not. But we also know that every kid needs education beyond traditional high school. We have got to do a better job of providing opportunities for young people to get to and understand the workforce. We need to get the education to the kid and just not the kid to the education.”
Tucker is the only one of the five that is not seeking re-election because he “believes in term limits.” But Tucker said the state is in a good place economically and that will help victims of recent Hurricane Florence. Tucker was first elected to the state senate in 2010.
“Politicians and judges should have term limits,” Tucker said. “But when we went in, and Craig was elected the same time I was, we were staring down a $2.8 billion budget (deficit). Today, with the Hurricane relief for Florence, we’ll go back in (special) session and appropriate funds out of the savings account that we have been able to amass. It is at the highest it has ever been with $2 billion-plus in the savings account.
“So, we’re able to help folks with Hurricane Florence. When we went in, the personal income rate was almost 8 percent. This year, Jan. 1, 2019, it will be down to 5.25. That is a significant reduction. The goal, personally, is to take the income rate to zero like it is in Florida and Texas. But I can tell you, that is going to be a heavy political lift because government has to have money to support its core services.”