11/30/08 — Bending Bev's ear: Here's what Wayne wants to ask, tell the governor-elect

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Bending Bev's ear: Here's what Wayne wants to ask, tell the governor-elect

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on November 30, 2008 2:00 AM

Governor-elect Bev Perdue

If given five minutes with Governor-elect Beverly Perdue, local small business owners would have plenty to give her an earful about -- from taxes to education to infrastructure.

At two recent roundtable forums for business and civic leaders -- one at the Research Triangle Park and one in Charlotte -- Ms. Perdue has discussed such issues with business and local leaders from across the state.

Taxes and schools top the issues that Delano Hill, owner of Delano Hill and Associates in Mount Olive, would like to see the new governor address.

"She needs to look at decreasing the corporate and personal income taxes and replace them with a temporary, say five-year, sales tax on consumption. Rather than tax earnings, tax consumption," Hill said.

Food, medicine and gas, though, should be exempt from the sales tax, he said.

Hill said it would be interesting to see how much a 1 percent sales tax would generate.

North Carolina, he said, ranks in the top 10 states in terms of corporate sales tax. That tax as well as the personal income tax are excessive "based on the kind of state we are," he said.

Hill explained that he attended a recent meeting where someone suggested that since gas prices were down that a 50-cent gasoline tax was needed. But he believes that such a tax would have a detrimental effect on people who are trying to go to work.

In fact, he thinks it was the high gas prices that contributed to the recent housing foreclosure crisis, because all of a sudden people were having to come up with another $200 a month for gas, taking the money from other areas where it was needed.

The higher gas prices, he said, meant that people were doing the same thing as before, but only now they were being penalized.

"There is no fair way to do anything when it comes to taking money out of my pocket," he said. "If I buy something it is a different story."

That, he explained, is why a consumption tax would be less of a burden, especially if a simple formula is used.

There is no need to complicate it, he said, something that lawmakers tend to do -- like with schools and education.

"We have continued to spend millions on new schools and salaries and we are worse off than ever," he said.

DeWayne Parvin, of W.P. Martin Paint and Wallcoverings in Mount Olive, agreed that education should be a priority.

"I think one of the biggest things, in my opinion, is to do something about teachers' pay in the state," he said.

The state, he said, needs to get more qualified teachers in the classroom and pay them enough to make a living while providing them the things they need to do their jobs.

"They (teachers) do not need to have to supplement and buy items they need, especially in the lower grades, to teach," he said. "It is not the responsibility of teachers to have to buy what they need to do their job.

"Also, if you increase the salaries you will get more and better qualified teachers for our children and ultimately that (children) is our future."

Another issue he said Perdue needs to take a look at is the lottery, which he said has been handled "extremely poorly." The state needs to ensure the funds are used as specified, he said.

Other issues include the need to be more effective in industrial recruitment and the need for a task force charged with looking at the state's infrastructure including the interstate highways.

In particular, he continued, a U.S. 70 bypass is needed around the stoplight bottleneck in Havelock area.

Additionally, more attention also needs to be focused on the ports at Morehead City and Wilmington, Parvin said.

"I think that would give her an earful," he said.

Small business managers and employees and community supporters in Goldsboro echoed the concerns of those in Mount Olive, and suggested other issues that Mrs. Perdue should tackle post-inauguration.

Independent businesses help drive many cities in eastern North Carolina, and the slippery economy has graphic designer Allison Taylor worried.

Mrs. Perdue should address the economic problems and act to help keep local retailers from going under, said Mrs. Taylor, who works at Darwin Screen Printing and Embroidery.

"I'm really concerned what will happen to small mom-and-pop businesses. It really puts a crunch on family-owned businesses. I'd really love to know what someone's going to do. That's what scares me," Mrs. Taylor said.

And that concern is shared by the many restaurants in the county, which have seen a recent decline in customers because of high gas prices and increasing food prices.

Because of high gasoline prices that have only recently started to decline, many families have cut back on how often they eat out at restaurants.

"When gas prices went up, food prices went up," said Matt Crawford, manager of McCall's Bar-B-Que and Seafood.

McCall's restaurant was forced to raise prices because of the increase in the cost of ingredients, he said, adding that Mrs. Perdue should work on trying to help lower food prices.

Lee Gray, development director for Habitat for Humanity, emphasized her worry that overcrowded classrooms and low salaries are making teachers' challenging jobs even more difficult.

"From my point of view, I have a lot of friends who are teachers," said Ms. Gray. "They're stretched out to max capacity."

Mrs. Perdue should work out a way to give the schools better funding, she said.

Others also said that Mrs. Perdue shouldn't forget about North Carolina's four-legged residents, either.

Graphic artist Kim Eichelberger, who works for the photo studio Classic Images on Center Street in Goldsboro, frequently volunteers with the Humane Society and said Mrs. Perdue needs to improve conditions for animals in the state.

"Animal control could be better," she said.

And last but not least, while major automobile companies are seeking a bailout from the federal government, Wayne County car dealers are feeling the crunch, too, and are hopeful that the new governor will be able to extend them a hand.

John Harris, general manager for Doug Henry Buick Pontiac GMC, met Mrs. Perdue last year at a meeting of the Automobile Dealers Association.

Mrs. Perdue, then lieutenant governor, seemed to be very aware of the problems facing the automobile industry, Harris said.

"Our concerns are the economy and the restrictions that have been put on us," he said. "I think she'll do a good job."

To submit your own ideas, visit her Web site at www.bevperdue.com/suggestionbox.