ROUND ONE

Paul Fogleman,

The primary elections next Tuesday herald the beginning of the 2014 elections season. Runoffs for contests where no candidate gets 40 percent of the votes cast will be July 15 (in mid summer at the height of vacation season.).

Most statewide attention has been directed at the Republicans seeking to unseat U.S. Senator Kay Hagan. House Speaker Thom Tillis, the acknowledged front-runner, may get over the threshhold to avoid a primary. Recent polls have him getting as much as 46 percent of the votes, almost two-to-one over rivals Rev. Mark Harris and Dr. Gary Brannock.. Several lesser known candidates also will be on the ballot.

Tillis has said he will preside over the short session of the House which opens May 14. If so, look for it to be a short short session. Unless, of course, the Senate has its own agenda.

WHERE’S THE SURPRISE?

Usually about this time each year the General Assembly looks for the “April surprise.” This comes when tax revenues are reported, often giving lawmakers several hundreds millions of surplus money to plug into the budget. Pay increases for teachers and other state employees are first in line for the money. But reports from the Department of Revenue has been disappointing so budget negotiations are expected to be intense. The Legislature adopted a number of fee increases in the bill to reduce income taxes. But some lawmakers complain the tax reform was not revenue neutral as had been predicted. Maybe that’s the surprise.

MANUFACTURING COMMUNITY

A consortium of public and private organizations and companies, including the Manufacturing Solutions Center, the Textiles Technology Center and the Carolina Textile District have submitted a proposal to be designated as a national Manufacturing Community. With the support of the Western Piedmont Council of Governments, the consortium is seeking access to federal funds to create jobs through support for entrepreneurs and helping existing businesses re-engineer for the return of manufacturing to the U.S. Specific undertakings involve workforce training and development, creating supplier networks, research and innovation services, and access to capital.

The application to the U.S. Department of Commerce includes specific details, timetables, and resources. The Manufacturing Community would center on Catawba, Alexander, Burke and Caldwell Counties, but proposes an outreach that includes most of North Carolina’s central and western Piedmont and the industrial corridors in Western North Carolina, including Asheville.

Designation as a Manufacturing Community amounts to an endorsement for federal funds to help credible operations participate in the rebuilding of a manufacturing base. N.C. Secretary Sharon Decker is among those who submitted letters of support for the initiative.

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