N.C. GOP leaders offer list of state priorities
By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 14, 2010 1:46 PM
North Carolina Republicans are hoping voters' disapproval of the national Democratic Party will result in a state shift of power this November as well -- and they have released a blueprint for what they will do if they are the new bosses in the General Assembly.
The multibillion-dollar state budget deficit and taxes top a 10-point plan Republican leaders say will be their priorities if they are in control of North Carolina's top legislative bodies.
Although short on specifics on how they would deal with the issues they cite, the list includes swipes against the current Democratic leadership and the policies that GOP leaders say have led to the state having the highest tax rate in the Southeast and facing a $3 billion or more budget deficit. The list includes promises to balance the budget without raising taxes and to make tax rates more competitive with other states.
The GOP promises that within the first 100 days of the next General Assembly session it will:
* Pass the Health Care Freedom Protection Act exempting North Carolina from the mandates of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Sager says the bill would be too costly and that the federal government telling people they must buy health insurance probably violates the U.S. Constitution.
* Fight to protect jobs by keeping the state's Right to Work laws.
* Reduce regulatory burdens on small businesses. Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne said that is particularly true of environmental rules that hamstring development.
* Fund education in the classroom, not the bureaucracy.
* Eliminate the cap on charter schools.
* Pass the Eminent Domain constitutional amendment to protect private property rights. This would not apply to the state's ability to exercise eminent domain for projects in the public's interest like highways, he said.
* End pay-to-play politics and restore honesty and integrity to state government.
"(The caucus) will be coming out with a lot of decisions of pay to play," Sager said. "I know they have a list of things that they know have happened. A number of people in the Transportation Department have their jobs because of spending big money in the (Gov. Bev) Perdue campaign. That has come out. That is the kind of thing we are talking about -- if you are a great big contributor you are appointed to a position. That is not what we are supposed to be about."
Sager said the list is not a political ploy, but a real attempt to change the focus in Raleigh.
"I think it is something that we actually can accomplish," Sager said. "A lot of it is what we have been trying to accomplish for the last 10 years and the current leadership will not allow it to happen."
Sager, who is unopposed in the November election, said he expects a positive public response despite a lack of specifics as to how the goals will be accomplished. In fact, he thinks the general public will favor the goals and wonder why they haven't been set before now.
"It is easy to explain, because the (Democratic) leadership stopped it," he said. "I think we can give (the public) the specifics after we have really sat down and the entire caucus has a say in exactly how we are going to do this thing -- a battle plan so to speak."
The bare bones list is merely a statement of purpose, Sager said, but the goals it represents are absolutely doable.
"I think that is what they did with this long discussion that they had -- 'let's don't put out anything that we can't accomplish,'" he said. "(The Republican caucus) is confident it is something that we can actually accomplish."
Some of the goals are simple like passage of the Honest Election Act that would require people to furnish a valid photo ID to vote.
Sager said he does not understand the opposition to the bill, particularly in light of photo IDs being required for other activities and transactions -- unless the opposition to the idea is really about politics.
"Change the leadership, and it will go through," he said.
While Sager said the list has many possibilities that can be accomplished, he added that some of the goals will require a little more time and work and that the upcoming session will be just the first step along that road.
The polls say the Republicans are very likely to have the chance to put their money where their mouths are, he said.
"It is just the mood of the country that it will be worse than (the) 1994 (Republican landslide) ever was," he said. "From what I am seeing from all of our races, it is not just possible, it is more than probable that we are going to gain control and the Senate has a better chance than (the House does)."
If that happens, it would be the first time the Republicans have controlled both chambers, Sager said. The last time the GOP held the Senate was 1898. It did control the House from 1994 to 1996.
Sager said he is happy with the GOP's first attempt at the list, but suggested that there are other issues he would like to see addressed.
"I might have some ideas I want to put on there later, but right now I think they did a lot of studying as far as getting this together," he said.
One of those future goals might be term limits, even though Sager said he is unsure how he feels about them.
"I think we have some people who get in government regardless of where they are and after a while they need to leave," he said. "I think they get to the point that they think they have the answers and 'don't bother me with what you think. I know what I need to do.'"