March Legislative Report

Paul Fogleman,
Paul Fogleman

This issue of Trends focuses on America’s interest in the return of manufacturing. Not that manufacturing ever left. Manufacturing slipped behind the once-upon-a-time curtain and re-invented itself. Now our political and business leaders have re-discovered a manufacturing segment that is leaner, focused, and sophisticated.

This is the story we are carrying to our friends in the North Carolina General Assembly. The Manufacturing Solutions Center in Conover is generating interest among representatives and senators. It is an inspiring story of what can be accomplished with leadership and industry support. Textiles manufacturers have come to the table in support of the Textile Technology Center in Belmont. Both centers have adopted 21st century models for traditional manufacturing.

On April 10, the Hosiery and Textiles Governmental Affairs Council will host Hosiery and Textiles Day at the Legislature. That Wednesday begins with a breakfast for lawmakers in the Legislative cafeteria. It will be followed by visits with key leaders – especially Appropriations chairs. The mission: protect state financial support for the operation of the centers.

And, of course, say “thank you.”

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The first bill that Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law directs the Department of Public Education to create a path for high school graduation with a diploma that indicates specialization in technical training. High school students also can pursue a college-preparation diploma or one that covers both.

Education reform is one of the three “E’s” at the top of the governor’s agenda. Graduating students prepared for the 21st century workforce is among the priorities. Weeding out poor teachers is another. The governor and legislators also are opening doors for more charter schools. Privatization of certain services such as school bus operations has been discussed openly in committee meetings.

Economic growth and efficiency in the delivery of government services are the other top priorities for the McCrory administration. There will be no more seat-warmers on the state payroll, the governor said in his address to the General Assembly.

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Tax reform will surface during this session of the Legislature. But when? Finance committee chairs in the House and Senate have given no hint.

Sen. Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has stated publicly that he wants to abolish income taxes for businesses and administration. Over on the House side, Speaker Thom Tillis has expressed reservations this can be accomplished although he, too, wants major reform.

Spreading the “consumer taxes” from retail to services will be on the table. An 8.05 percent consumer (sales) tax has been floated, including for food purchases. Several other Southern states have no income taxes.

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Gov. McCrory, speaking at the Emerging Issues Forum, predicted that traditional manufacturers using new technology will lead North Carolina out of the economic doldrums.

“We tend to think of manufacturing and agriculture as old business … we have to have businesses that make things, that produce something, that innovate” he told the 1,000 participants at the forum.

A former board member for Kewaunee Scientific Furniture in Statesville, McCrory is familiar with the 21st century challenges facing established industries. He pledged to push for upgrades to the state’s infrastructure – roads, rails, water, energy and communications.

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