Legislators address packed house of Chamber members
Senator Norman Sanderson revealed that coastal North Carolina legislators have a strategy for dealing with their colleagues in the General Assembly. The essence of their message:
“Don’t forget about us in the east. Without the coast, you would be stopping to spend your summer vacations in Smithfield.”
That brought a good laugh from many of the 85 Chamber members and guests attending the Chamber’s Legislative Luncheon Wednesday…but it drove home the point that there’s a whole lot of geography in eastern North Carolina and vast assets that benefit the state as a whole.
Sen. Sanderson said 2015 session of the General Assembly, although lengthy and sometimes contentious, produced a good final product – a $21.7 billion state budget that the Senate, House of Representatives and Governor’s Office all could live with.
“We all want North Carolina to prosper,” he said, “but we can’t spend, spend, spend our way to prosperity.”
The new budget increases state spending by 3.1 percent, and Sen. Sanderson called the budget a tool for “efficient prosperity.”
North Carolina’s future is brightening. He said North Carolina is now 10th in the country for job growth and also 10th in personal income growth.
Just six states currently make the “top 10” lists for both job growth and personal income growth. North Carolina is one of them – the only Southern state to do so.
Lower taxes and fewer burdensome regulations are making North Carolina more attractive for business growth and development, Sen. Sanderson said.
“Existing businesses are experiencing slow and steady growth. I’ll take that every time, because slow and steady is what lasts,” he commented.
Representative Pat McElraft also spoke at the Chamber’s Legislative Luncheon at The Boathouse at Front Street Village in Beaufort, to address accomplishments from the legislative session.
Absent from the final budget, which was signed by Governor Pat McCrory September 18, was a massive redistribution of sales tax revenues from the urban areas and tourism destinations to shore up poorer, rural counties. Had this gone through, it would have stripped “millions of dollars” away from Carteret County and its municipalities, she said.
Rep. McElraft said among the good things the lawmakers did was to add $3 million over two years to the state tourism promotion budget, to commit more funding for rural water and wastewater infrastructure, to find funding for shallow draft inlet dredging and to thwart countless attempts to overturn the School Calendar Law to allow public schools to open earlier in August.
Regarding “Save Our Summers,” and the uniform school calendar, she said: “We’re OK for now, but the opposition to allow ‘school calendar flexibility’ is likely to intensify in future sessions.”
The Short Session is in 2016, so the lawmakers are not scheduled to go back into session until April 25.
Meanwhile, the Chamber will continue to receive input from Chamber members through the middle of February for the development of the 2016 Legislative Agenda. The Chamber’s “Pre-Session” Legislative Luncheon will be scheduled in early spring.
Chamber Chair Kerry Youngblood, who serves as President of Carteret Community College, said the Chamber takes seriously its commitment to be the “Voice of Business” and represents all of Carteret County to advocate for commerce and business.
“We are your vehicle to make a difference, not only on legislative affairs, but also in serving employers’ needs and to facilitate marketing and networking for your businesses,” Dr. Youngblood said. “The Chamber is forward-moving and on our toes. We’re here to serve.”