Blake, Boles Give Governor Good Marks on Speech
Despite political party differences, Moore County's legislators give Gov. Beverly Perdue high marks for her Monday night State of the State address.
State Sen. Harris Blake and state Rep. Jamie Boles are Republicans, while Perdue is a Democrat.
"I'm still on board with the governor and her interest in saving education," Blake said Tuesday morning. "She is really strong on education, and I got the impression that if the world fell apart, she would still be there protecting education."
Boles said, "Overall, I think she did a good job. I agree with a lot of issues she brought up."
Boles added that he liked her emphasis on protecting teachers and public schools.
Both Republicans praised her proposal to lower the corporate tax rate by 2 percent to 4.9 percent. If enacted, the new corporate tax rate would become the lowest in the Southeast and one of the lowest in the nation. The present rate of 6.9 percent is described as the highest in the Southeast.
"New jobs are great, but let's keep the jobs we have," Boles said in explaining his strong support of a lower corporate tax rate.
He added that the Republican Party has always advocated for a lower tax rate for companies.
Blake said corporate taxes represent a relatively small percentage of state revenue, and the lower rate should have little effect on the total. But he thinks the benefits will far outweigh any losses.
"When you're a new industry looking for a site, the first thing you look at is the corporate tax rate," he said.
Blake said that with a lower tax rate for companies, North Carolina would be in a position to offer everything new and existing industries need.
"We've got a good workforce and an energetic community college system ready to train workers," he said. "We've got everything industry needs."
Although the budget process is just getting started, Boles and Blake appeared to be somewhat less gloomy about the fiscal outlook. Nevertheless, both legislators said tough budget cuts are clearly in the offing before the state produces a balanced budget for the new fiscal year.
Perdue will present her budget Thursday, and neither legislator knows its contents in advance.
Omitted from her State of the State address were references to a couple of sensitive issues, such as allowing special taxes to lapse at the end of the current fiscal year and Republican legislation calling for transferring millions of dollars in economic development funds from the current budget to curb the expected revenue shortfall.
Boles said the GOP plan to transfer money from such programs as the One North Carolina Fund, the Golden LEAF Foundation and the Tobacco Trust Fund is widely misunderstood and has not been fully explained to the public by the media.
"These are funds that are not depleted, funds that are not spoken for and are just sitting there in reserve," Boles said.
Boles said the transfer included in Senate Bill 13 would still leave these funds with money to meet the contracts the state already has with companies and with funds for other projects if needed.
He cited as one example the availability of $555 million in the Golden LEAF fund to be distributed before July and said the likelihood that the foundation would distribute that much money for economic development projects before that deadline is remote at best.
"We're just asking them not to spend it for the remainder of this fiscal year," Boles said. "None of that money is in jeopardy."
Blake is a co-sponsor of the bill, titled the Balanced Budget Act of 2011.
However, Blake said he sees some positive signs in the state's economic condition. For one thing, he said the revenue flow has picked up and may provide a billion dollars more than was originally projected.
That doesn't mean sacrifice isn't still needed.
"Going into the new budget year, things are still terrible, but it has some positive sides," Blake said. "We can't go back to spending as usual."
Blake said sharp spending cuts will still be needed and that everyone will be hurt to some extent by the cuts. But, he added, the state can make it if no new programs are added and significant spending cuts are executed.
Blake said he was impressed late last year when Perdue delivered a major address in Pinehurst, where she unveiled a plan calling for a major reorganization of state government designed to save money and improve efficiency.
"She did nothing last night to discredit that," he said. "I believe we can work together."
In the address at Pinehurst, Perdue proposed a revamping of government agencies, commissions, bureaus and programs, including such things as consolidation of a number of agencies and privatization of some services. She did not estimate how much this would save but said the details would be spelled out in her budget proposal for the 2012 fiscal year.
The state revenue shortfall originally estimated as high as $3.7 billion is now projected at $2.4 billion for the first year of the biennial budget.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story