Monday, May 30, 2016

Happy Memorial Day / Legislative Update

Best wishes to you and your family for a happy and safe Memorial Day. Let us never forget the brave men and women who offered their life in defense of our great nation. It is their sacrifice that provides us with the freedom and liberty that we enjoy.

NC House Passes Budget

The House passed our version of the budget two weeks ago. It is a responsible budget that keeps spending at a reasonable level while providing more funding for the core services of government. Teachers would receive an average 4.1 percent pay increase as well as bonus pay that would count towards their retirement. Other state employees would receive a 2 percent pay increase along with bonus pay, and state retirees would receive a 1.6 percent COLA increase. Spending is kept within TABOR, which means that growth in spending does not out-pace changes in inflation and population.

The budget passed the House on a strong bipartisan vote of 103-12. It has now gone to the Senate, which is deliberating over the details. The Senate will soon pass the budget back to the House, and then it will likely go to conference, where conferees will be appointed to negotiate a final version.

More Tax Cuts Advanced

The House and Senate are working on a proposal that would increase the standard deduction for all taxpayers. The current standard deduction for a married couple is $15,500 and the standard deduction for an individual filer is $7,750. Current proposals would increase those amounts to $17,500 and $8,750, respectively. This would especially benefit lower-to-middle income earners.

Protecting Firefighters

It was my honor to run an amendment to the budget that added three types of cancer to line of duty death benefits for firefighters. North Carolina is one of only a few states that doesn't provide such benefits for the family of a firefighter who loses his or her life in the line of duty. This is a positive step forward in enhancing benefits for firefighters, who often risk their life to keep us safe.

Supporting Our Aviation Industry

During debate on the budget, there was an amendment offered that would have eliminated a 3 percent tax cut on the sale of air planes and boats above $50,000. If passed, this amendment would have had a negative impact on aviation companies in North Carolina, such as HondaJet. This also would have impacted boating companies that may be looking to locate in North Carolina. I responded by debating the issue and then making a motion to "lay the amendment upon the table," which passed and removed the amendment from consideration.

Unemployment Hits Eight Year Low

North Carolina's mostly recent unemployment rate, 5.4 percent, is the lowest we have had in eight years. Although there is more work to do, this indicates that the economy is continuing to recover. North Carolina has had one of the fastest rates of job-creation over the last few years. Our state GDP is strong and the private sector has been creating jobs faster than the national average.

High Business Rating

North Carolina recently ranked third for business climate in Chief Executive magazine. The magazine claimed that chief executives who "favor pro-growth, low-tax states ranked Texas, Florida and North Carolina as the best states in the U.S. for business." This is good news for our State, but you are unlikely to see this reported in the mainstream media.

Meeting with Constituents

It was an honor to meet with real estate appraisers who visited the legislature to discuss policies related to their industry. I had the privilege of running a regulatory reform bill related to their profession in last year's legislative session.

Meeting with Health Care Professionals

It was a pleasure to visit the staff at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro. They invited me to tour their facility and learn about their operation model. I am impressed by the services they provide to our community.

Summerfield Founder's Day Parade

Earlier this month I participated in the Founder's Day Parade in Summerfield. This is a patriotic parade that celebrates the founding of the Summerfield community. I had my Ford Mustang decorated for the occasion.

More Updates Coming Soon...

As always, I will do my best to keep you updated on developments at the legislature. Our goal is to complete the current legislative session by the 4th of July holiday. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments.

Quote to Remember

"Today is a day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It's a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It's a day to be with the family and remember."
- President Ronald Reagan's 1986 Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia

Rep. Jon Hardister