10/30/08 — Carroll, Rouzer vie for N.C. Senate seat

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Carroll, Rouzer vie for N.C. Senate seat

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on October 30, 2008 1:46 PM

Democrat Kay Carroll

Republican David Rouzer

Western Wayne County voters have a clear choice between the candidates for the 12th District seat in the state Senate -- a Republican who says his experience in national politics will help the district in Raleigh and a Democrat who says his experience at the local level will better serve the interests of the people who live in the district.

The 12th District includes all of Johnston County and the western half of Wayne. Former state Sen. Fred Smith, a Republican, represented the district for three terms before entering the race for governor.

Republican David Rouzer said his work in Washington as an aide to Jesse Helms and Elizabeth Dole and later as an executive with the U.S. Department of Agriculture could be of great help to the district, especially when it comes to rural issues.

Democrat Kay Carroll, who has served on the Johnston County School Board for 16 years, says his understanding of local issues coupled with his background as a small business owner makes him the better candidate for the job.

"My experience at the federal level, I think, would be an extra advantage in representing Johnston and Wayne counties," Rouzer said. "I feel I bring experience at a very high level of government that can help effect the changes we need in Raleigh."

"I know the issues that we're facing here, first hand, intimately," Carroll said. "I've been in this district for 50 years. I've run a business for 31 years and served for 16 on the Board of Education. My experience in business and my background on education issues, I think, is unique in terms of these times and the issues that are most important to us, education, health care and economic reform."

Rouzer said state government is in need of an overhaul. He said the state budget has grown by 80 percent over the past decade and that spending needs to be curtailed. North Carolina government needs better management, he added.

"We really need a major management change in Raleigh," he said, adding that after talking with many state employees, he is confident that state spending can be cut 10 percent without hurting services.

"There's no reason we can't find 10 percent savings across the board, in my judgment," Rouzer said. He said state leaders need to be considering a reduction in the tax on gasoline as well as cuts in the corporate income tax and the personal income tax.

Carroll said the state needs to stop approving regulations that force local governments to raise property taxes. If the federal government comes up with new programs, it should provide the money to run those programs, he said. In the same way, legislators need to stop passing the buck on down to local governments.

"It affects the counties' budgets and the schools' budgets," Carroll said. "It puts tremendous pressure on property taxes."

Carroll said the key to economic development is education. He said businesses looking to relocate consider the quality of schools in an area as the major reason to choose a location. The local tax rate, he said, is much further down their list.

Both candidates said more attention needs to be given to vocational and technical training.

Rouzer said school systems need to reduce personnel at the administrative level and stop "teaching to the test."

Annexation is an issue that lawmakers likely will be taking a serious look at soon. As the state's population grows and urban areas expand, cities and towns are reaching out to annex more neighborhoods -- whether they like it or not.

Rouzer said forced annexation is "government run amok."

Existing state law regarding annexation is a violation of fundamental property rights, he said. Residents of areas targeted for annexation should have the right to vote on the issue, he said.

Carroll said the state needs to re-examine its annexation laws and to create a formula that gives residents input into the process but that doesn't hurt municipalities' ability to grow. There needs to be a close look at the "tradeoffs," he said, to ensure that residents being annexed are getting the services they are promised.

"We've got to try to find a balance between municipalities having some say about what's going around them and landowners who deserve protection," Carroll said.

Immigration is another issue lawmakers could well find themselves immersed in.

Rouzer said the key is to develop good guest worker programs. Farmers and others in need of labor have to be able to hire people to do the jobs that many Americans will no longer accept.

"Right now, we don't have good guest worker programs," he said, adding that workers who come to this country and prove themselves good citizens should have a chance to earn legal status.

"It's a very, very emotional issue," Rouzer said. "Therefore, we need to be mindful of the fact that we've let the problem fester for 30 years and we can't go back. But we do have an opportunity to get it right from here on out."

Carroll said there needs to be a stronger system of identification to ensure that immigrants are here legally.

"It should be a federal issue," he added, "but the folks at the federal level have turned a blind eye. I hear from people hiring immigrants and trying to determine if they are illegal or not and the government isn't helping. The state and local governments are going to have to deal with illegal immigrants."

Carroll said he would like to see Johnston and Wayne counties get more involved in commuter railroad service as a way to boost economic development.

"I think it would open up our area for more businesses," he said.

Rouzer said good infrastructure and a fair tax code are the keys to economic development.

"North Carolina has to be an attractive place for people to invest in," he said.

Both candidates said they are dismayed by recent developments in mental health care in the state. Rouzer said mismanagement is the problem and likened it to other government services that need better leadership.

Carroll said state leaders who had hoped to reduce costs and improve the delivery of mental health services failed to realize that the private network was not prepared to care for patients.

"The legislature had checks and balances, but they overlooked them to get it started," he said. Carroll added that the state must continue to be a big player in delivering such services until a solid network of providers can be established.

Rouzer said the situation is another example of mismanagement in state government and that the legislature needs to find qualified people to correct the situation.