Legislators: Year of key decisions
By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 11, 2011 12:58 AM
The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's Legislative Breakfast Friday drew a full house of spectators, but only three legislators -- including one drafted from the audience.
Sen. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, and Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne, who were joined by Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin, reviewed the recent session and promised that the belt tightening and budget cutting aren't over yet.
Moderator Dr. Ed Wilson told the audience that Dixon had attended as a guest, but have been "prevailed upon" to offer comments as well.
Pate said the turnout at the Goldsboro Country Club was an indication of the interest in what the state is doing and in what local legislators are attempting to do to help the area as well as the rest of the state and its citizens.
"When we took office in January, the state had a $2.5 billion hole in its budget," he said. "That is a very frightening figure and something had to be done. Regardless of who went into power, something had to be done about our budget situation. We have had to make some very gut-wrenching calls and decisions. We have had an impact on public education, the community colleges, our public universities and our private colleges and universities.
"We have had very tough decisions we had to make in health and human services and right down the line through everything that the state is involved in. It has been some of the most torturous times that I can recall in state government. We are not done yet, but I hope that we are beginning to see some fruits of all of these labors so that our state will be turning around and your lives will be turning around."
Pate said he sits on an oversight committee that will look at how state plans for health and human services are being met because "we had to take some bold steps."
The budget has been in place for three months and lawmakers will follow it closely, he said.
Also important to the state is the job situation and an unemployment rate of 10.1 percent, Pate said.
"We have got to provide jobs for our people," he said. "My concept of that is that the state provides the infrastructure that is necessary for businesses to operate and then gets out of the way so that the smart entrepreneurs can figure out ways to run a business or open a business or hire new employees and let them run in a free enterprise system."
Sager said people do not realize how much lawmakers struggled over what could or could not be cut from the budget.
"I talked with somebody in education yesterday and they said, 'We are getting along fine.' They understand that some cuts had to be made and we just can't keep pouring in dollars that we don't have."
Sager said Republicans followed through on their promises to balance the budget and to do away with the temporary one-cent sales tax and a state surcharge on the corporate income tax.
He said many people had said the sales tax should have been left alone.
"Folks, it was said it was a temporary tax and we helped the governor keep her promise and it was taken off," he said. "Thank goodness we were able to override her veto."
The legislature also went through redistricting. Sager had maps of the proposed districts including the one that would place him and Dixon in the same district.
The two men said they are friends and that if that happened, their campaigns would be the "poster child" for how to conduct clean campaigns and would be one that people would be proud of.
However, Sager said he would not be surprised if the process was not completed on time for filing that begins in February. He said the districts probably would be tied up in court for some time.
Dixon said he would have to disagree somewhat with Pate about tough decisions.
"I didn't make any tough decisions in Raleigh," he said. "They were not tough at all to me because each time we came up with a critical situation a picture of my little grandchildren and your grandchildren came to mind.
"I am telling you that government was spending too much on too many things too often. It is time to rein in government. Government can't create jobs. Government needs to provide the opportunity for the business community to create jobs. My slogan is this: Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."
Dixon said the U.S. has become a wasteful and ungrateful society -- something that must change.