Goodbye cold and dreary January. It’s time for the Big Show to begin—The Elections. Big changes are in store as retirements and resignations assure a sea of new faces in the North Carolina Legislature. Filing begins February 10 and primaries –more important than the November elections for Republicans—are May 6. Two weeks later the 2014 Session opens.
Three new members to Congress will be elected. Retiring are Howard Coble of the Sixth District and Mike McIntyre of the Third District. Both are moderates and strong supporters of business. Mel Watts of the 12th District has joined the Obama administration. Candidates are lining up for these seats, including current members of the General Assembly. As a result of redistricting, the Third and Sixth seats are expected to go to Republicans, leaving Democrats with only two members in the N.C. delegation.
The GOP primary winner for the U.S.Senate seat will face Sen. Kay Hagen. House Speaker Thom Tillis is among five candidates and has not participated in forums across the state. Tillis is trying to distance himself from Tea Party agenda with some candidates calling for impeachment of the president, privatizing social security and repeal of Obamacare.
Word from Raleigh is that tax revenues this year will exceed expectations. But not by a lot. Even so, Gov. McCrory and some legislators have pledged salary increases for teachers and state employees. To achieve a 6 percent increase for teachers who have not had a raise in four years will require over $100 million. This means cuts in other budget line items. Lobbying will be intense. And since this is the short session, round-the-clock negotiations will be the order of the day.
Tax reform? Not in an election year. However sales tax receipts from Amazon are expected to add around $50 million a year to the state treasury.
SLOW SIGN ERECTED
The State Department of Commerce has put the brakes on the transition of some of its functions to a private non-profit.
The department has announced plans to shift marketing functions, including export promotion, tourism and business recruiting to a private-public partnership by February. This week legislators were told it will be July before moves take place. The timing coincides with a new fiscal year for the state.
Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker and Richard Lindenmuth who will head the private entity said the decision has to do with people. He said the speedy transition would have been disruptive to long-time staffers and the state wanted to ensure the transition was done correctly, even if it wasn’t done correctly.
Secretary Decker is scheduled to visit the Manufacturing Solutions Center February 24.