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McCrory touts business-friendly tack to fix N.C.
Monday, 16 July 2012 17:30
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The state is in terrible financial condition, North Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory said during an address on June 15 to the Council of Independent Business Owners in downtown Asheville.

McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor, addressed more than 100 people — mainly business-owners — during a CIBO “power lunch meeting” at Magnolia’s Raw Bar & Grille.

His opponent, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, a Democrat, last appeared at a CIBO session in December 2010. Dalton’s staff reportedly is working to confirm another meeting CIBO address soon. McCrory also had appeared previously before CIBO.

The GOP candidate began his talk by stating, “Listen, these are very, very serious times. The state unemployment report for North Carolina just came out” — and it remains at 9.4 percent. 

“I’m sad to report that our unemployment is still the fourth highest in the nation. The only three higher are Nevada (11.6 percent), Rhode Island (11 percent) and California (10.8 percent).”

Shaking his head, McCrory said, “This is not the North Carolina I grew up in.” He said he recalled the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, when “there was no state ahead of North Carolina” in growth and development.

“The reason I’m running for governor is to represent business. I’ve been a business leader for 30 years.”

He then told a story about a businessman who lamented, “While we were turned inward, our customers were leaving us.” He likened that firm’s dilemma with the plight in Raleigh.

“In the past decade, leadership in Raleigh turned inward and assumed that North Carolina’s brand (name) would carry us forever.” Instead, McCrory said the state has experienced the same “loss of customers” as did the business he cited.

To its credit, he said during the past three years, the legislature is “showing leadership.” (He apparently was alluding to the state legislator — led by Democrats for more than a century — that has been led by Republicans in the past few years.)

“I met with (N.J.) Gov. (Chris) Christie recently … When he took it (the state) over, he said New Jersey had fallen off a cliff … They now beat us (North Carolina) in unemployment.” After a pause, McCrory asserted, “North Carolina can beat New Jersey,” as it has through the years, with him at the helm.

He also said S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley “is beating us in recruiting industries — that can impact us from Wilmington to Charlotte to Asheville.” He cited efforts by governors in neighboring Tennessee and Virginia, which are leaving North Carolina behind. McCrory reiterated that he could fix the problem as the state’s new governor.

“I know as mayor … during my 14 years as mayor of Charlotte, I wanted to beat my competition. You don’t turn your back on your customers,” as he charged that Gov. Bev Perdue and her predecessor, both Democrats, have done.

He then noted that Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., got elected on his pledge to crackdown on corruption and push economic growth. Now, “they’re no longer known for corruption — and (economic) growth” is leading North Carolina.

“Surely, if they can do it in Louisiana, we can do it in North Carolina, where we have the mountains, the Piedmont and the coastal areas.”

McCrory added, “The new (N.C.) governor needs to make North Carolina business-friendly.”

As for what needs to be done, he listed the following:

• “North Carolina needs to get into the energy exploration business.” He said Asheville and the surrounding area depend on oil lines coming up from the Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C., area and the region “gets hit first when there’s a big problem” elsewhere. “It’s time for action, which allows for energy exploration and energy independence. This is extremely important.”

• Regulations needs to be streamlined or reduced to encourage business growth. He said the problem with regulations “is coming from Washington.”

What’s more, McCrory said, “Our governor and her administration sat on the sidelines” and failed to take any position on the national health care legislation, while “I’ve had businesses tell me they’re growing, but they don’t want to go over 70 employees — to avoid being part of Obamacare regulations.”

• Education needs reform. “I have a passion for education,” McCrory said. Nonetheless, he lamented that, despite much spending of tax dollars, “Our dropout rate in North Carolina high schools is around 20 percent.”

Further, he asserted, “To raises taxes and pour more money into schools is wrong. We need to figure out the problem first. University system costs are going up 7 to 8 percent per year, when inflation is 2-3 percent ... When I talk to many employers,” they complain that many North Carolina college graduates are “poorly educated ... We have remedial teaching at every level” of education. 

McCrory said he believes there should be two — rather than one — pathways to success for high school graduates in North Carolina, including attending college or training in a trade or vocational pursuit.

“One of the big things is we can’t find quality electricians” — and other tradesmen. “Even with an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent, we can’t find them. We’ve got to respect both pathways” — tradesmen and college graduates.

“I respect that aptitude (to do practical tasks) — and it’s desperately needed. This is the way we need to think out of the box, with regard to education.”

• The state’s tax system needs reform. “Our tax system is well over 40 years old,” McCrory said. “We must have a bias toward those people who make, grow or innovate things ... You don’t first grow government and hope the private sector follows. We’ve gone in reverse and the math doesn’t add up.

“We need a governor with the spirit to put North Carolina first ... We’ve got the least growth in jobs of any state today,” he said.

During a question-and-answer session that followed, Asheville City Councilman Marc Hunt asked McCrory to “reflect on challenge” that local officials “face in dealing with Raleigh.”

“We need communications and dialogue,” McCrory said. “We need a better integration of the city’s plan with the states’s.”

As governor, McCrory said, “I will present a 25-year infrastructure transportation plan, so everyone will know and can plan” accordingly. He stressed that “there is no such plan now.”

Another concern he cited is “unfunded mandates that states put on localities ... I want to decentralize a lot of our efforts.”

McCrory also said he wants to cut the state Department of Education and “push money and decision-making” more to the local level.

A man asked, “How do you intend to fund your 25-year transportation infrastructure?”

“That’s one reason I want to get into the energy business,” McCrory replied. “The last two governorers have stolen (funds for operations) from the Highway Trust Fund.”

He said there are many state financial problems now, including North Carolina owing the federal goverment $2.3 billion or $2.4 billion for unemployment insurance ... I need to warn you — we need to put out the short-term fires first.”

Ellis Cannon triggered laughter from the crowd when he asked, “Governor — governor-to-be — Voter fraud has been a bad thing ... What are the chances in North Carolina to get a voter ID” bill passed?

“If I’m elected governor, we’ll have the same requirements as we get in the Governor’s Mansion, or to buy Sudafed.” Some in the crowd applauded.

If voter ID is required, “nobody will be disenfranchised,” McCrory asserted, adding that he was sure the other side would “do everything they can” to oppose it.

Saying that “the backbone of the U.S. economy is small businesses,” a man asked what McCrory would do to spark the formation and growth of small businesses.

“Well, my major reform would be to change the tax system,” McCrory said. “We have one of the biggest income tax systems in the U.S ... That, more than incentives, is the way to go” to promote growth.

Mark Brooks said he had heard that “it’s not so much the regulation, but the way they’re enforced.” He asked if McCrory’s reform would include looking at enforcement.

“Actually, that’s a great question ... We’ve got a culture of intimidation” in the state government now. “Te businesses are fearful of retaliatation” from the regulators. “There’s a mentality that the bureaucrats are the bosses ... That’s wrong.

“This is going to be the No. 1 governor’s race” in the U.S., “now that Wisconsin is over ... I hope to bring (Wisc. Gov.) Scott Walker down here to help me. He’s a great, great guy. We need to change this culture” in North Carolina’s government.

At that point, McCrory received sustained and enthusiastic applause from the CIBO members as the program ended.



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