Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of Year Report

Here is a series of public policy updates as the year 2013 comes to a close.

Economic Improvement

According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor, North Carolina's unemployment rate is now 7.4 percent. That is a two percent drop from December 2012 (one year ago) when the statewide unemployment rate was 9.4 percent. Although the economy is still in need of improvement, this is encouraging news for North Carolina.

The improved economy in North Carolina may be a result of pro-business policies that have been promoted in the state legislature. Tax reform and regulatory reform are two major accomplishments that were made in the 2013 legislative session. Many of these reforms will take hold in 2014, which will hopefully help to strengthen our economy for years to come.

Public Education

Over the last few months I have visited several public schools in NC House District 59. My goal is to visit all of the schools in my district by the time the 2014 legislative session begins (which will be in May). This will allow me to learn directly from people who work in our education system.

One issue that needs to addressed is teacher pay. Many people, including myself, believe that teachers are underpaid in North Carolina (and have been long before Republicans came into the legislative majority). Unfortunately, the economic recovery and increasing costs related to Medicaid made it difficult to provide teachers with a pay increase this year.

However, I am confident that we will be able to provide teachers with a pay increase in next year's legislative session. Leaders in the NC General Assembly, Governor Pat McCrory, and Lt. Governor Dan Forest have all expressed interest in increasing teacher pay. This is a goal that we will work to accomplish in a manner that is responsible to the state budget.

Common Core

Many constituents have contacted me to express concerns about Common Core. In simple terms, Common Core is a set of national K-12 education standards (focused on English and math) that was adopted by numerous states, including North Carolina. There are many people who are concerned that the standards are unworkable and that they will reduce local control of education.

This is an issue that transcends partisan politics. I have heard from both Democrats and Republicans who are concerned about Common Core. I have heard from parents, teachers, and administrators who are concerned about this issue.

The North Carolina legislature has established a joint study committee on Common Core. Although I was unable to secure an appointment to the committee, I will be attending each meeting that is held. If you have any thoughts or feedback on this topic, please do not hesitate to contact me.


It is no surprise that the rollout of Obamacare has been problematic. Aside from problems related to the online health care exchanges, many people have lost their health care plan, and others have seen (or could see) an increase in the cost of their insurance. Also, businesses are struggling to find ways to handle the regulations that will result from Obamacare.

In North Carolina, our legislature chose not to expand Medicaid (as a part of Obamacare), and we also chose not to establish a state health care exchange (also a part of Obamacare). These actions will help to protect our citizens from potential long-term problems related to Obamacare.

Due to the fact that Obamacare is a federal law, it is important that we elect leaders to federal office who are willing to repeal and restructure the law. This issue is not about politics. It is about addressing problems related to an overreaching federal law that will lead to long-term ramifications on our nation's economy.

Awards and Recognition

It has been an honor to receive the following awards and recognitions related to the 2013 legislative session:

"NC Legislative Freshman Trailblazer" award from the NC Alliance for Public Charter Schools

"Certificate of Appreciation" from the NC Coalition for Lobbying and Government Reform

Highest-rated legislator from Guilford County by the NC Free Enterprise Foundation

Highest-rated legislator from Guilford County by the NC Chamber of Commerce

NC Tax and Budget Information

Here is information on North Carolina's new tax rates (which are lower due to tax reform) and budget revenue.

Basic Tax Rates

Personal Income Tax: 5.8% (flat rate)

Corporate Tax: 6%

Sales and Use Tax: 4.75% (average State and Local is 6.75%)

State Gas Tax: 37.5% (capped at this rate)

Estate Tax: Eliminated

Standard Deductions

Single Taxpayer: $7,500

Head of Household: $12,000

Married Filing Jointly: $15,000

Budget Revenue

- General Fund Revenue: $20.1 billion (FY 12-13)

- Public Education: 56%

- Health and Human Services: 24%

- Justice and Public Safety: 11%

- Reserves and Debt Service: 5%

- General Government: 2%

- Natural and Economic Resources: 2%

Reelection 2014

Soon I will be releasing a statement declaring my intentions to seek reelection to the NC House in 2014. It has been an honor to serve in our state legislature, and I hope that our citizens will allow me to continue serving. I would be grateful to have your support of my reelection efforts.

Happy New Year

Let us remember the positive memories of 2013 while looking forward to new opportunities in 2014. Best wishes to you and your family for a prosperous New Year. I hope that all of your goals for the New Year will become a reality.

Quote to Remember

"New Year's Day is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one."
- Brad Paisley