For candidates, election season not only means kissing babies and eating lots of North Carolina barbecue — it also means answering detailed questionnaires from the media and a host of other liberal special interest groups.
Last month, we reposted Representative Moffitt’s candid discussion with the North Carolina Metro Mayors Coalition (if you haven’t read it, be sure to — it’s a hoot) and today, we repost Representative Moffitt’s responses (and inserted some handy links) to News Radio 570 WWNC’s Election 2014 Candidate Questionnaire. 570 is the home of the popular Pete Kaliner Show, broadcast weekdays from 3 to 6pm.
Moffitt’s next appearance on 570 is scheduled for Tuesday, October 21 at 5pm, at which time the two-term conservative legislator and job-creating small businessman will debate his opponent. Be sure to tune in!
570 WWNC’s Election 2014 Candidate Questionnaire
1. Given low approval ratings for both the North Carolina General Assembly and Congress, in your opinion, is there a solution to the divisive politics we’re seeing?
Congress has always had a low approval rating. What did Will Rogers say? “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session?” That’s funny because it’s so true. I think distrust of big government and the political establishment in Washington is part of the fabric of being an American, it’s what makes us who we are.
As for the state legislature, we’ve certainly seen vocal groups of critics out there who are hell-bent on fomenting political divisiveness. In fact, it’s become a cottage industry for the foot soldiers of the state’s old guard — a political establishment that sees itself out of power for the first time in over a century. Think about that for a second — one party has been in charge of state government and the massive bureaucracy for over a century. One party put us billions in the hole and made promises that we’ll never be able to keep. As the new kids on the block, we’re asking uncomfortable questions and looking into things the way things have been done and finding some very troubling answers. The status quo is being threatened — so they lash out by ginning up anger and divisiveness.
Is there a solution to that divisiveness? I don’t know that there is, except to press on. That’s what we were elected to do — make the tough decisions. We’ve made some tremendous strides in the last few years in terms of reform, and we’ll need some time for those changes and reforms to shake out. Change is never easy. But hopefully, when folks can clearly see results — and we already have in terms of job growth, unemployment, lower taxes, less red tape — some of that vitriol will die down. Or not. For some folks, perpetual outrage seems to be a calling.
2. Education standards and funding are at the heart of many policy debates at the state and local levels. How do we strike a balance between the needs of school districts and the tax burden on North Carolinians?
I wish it were that easy — unfortunately, education has become more about playing politics than educating our kids. Over the last forty years or so, we’ve seen a huge increase in the amount we’re spending on education — the bulk of which goes to salaries and benefits and an increasingly bloated administration — and yet test scores have remained flat, and in some cases become worse. I’m very results-oriented, and so that doesn’t make sense to me. When you’re getting less out of what you put in, something’s wrong. When less than 13% of African-American children can actually read and do math at grade level, something’s wrong. You can’t just throw more and more taxpayer money at a bloated, broken education system and expect results. You need accountability. You need reform. You need to take a fresh look at the way you’re doing things if the way that you’re doing things doesn’t work.
I have public school teachers and teaching assistants in my family. I made the choice to send my three boys to public schools. I’m a product of the local public schools myself. But I can tell you this — schools aren’t what they were back when I was a kid. We learned a whole lot more with a whole lot less. I couldn’t afford to go to college, but that was okay — my public high school education prepared me well for life. You don’t have that now. Employers are constantly telling me that the kids graduating these days don’t have what it takes, that the education system is not producing what they need in terms of a skilled, educated workforce. When you have kids graduating from high school who can’t read, write, or balance a checkbook, that’s a problem.
As a legislator, I have the responsibility to see that our education system in this state is not only adequately funded, but that taxpayer money is spent in the most efficient, sustainable, and productive way. The key to that is more control at the local level — giving superintendents and local boards more control over how money is spent.
Let me go back to this idea that education has become more about playing partisan politics than educating our kids. When the other party was in charge, they didn’t give teachers raises for years. We gave teachers raises last session and this session, and we’re the bad guys. The other party froze teacher pay steps. We unfroze them. But we’re the bad guys. We’ve increased K-12 appropriations every year I’ve been here, and yet we’re accused by the unions of cutting education. The money these teacher unions have spent on negative ads this year is mind-blowing. If they truly cared about our kids, they’d take those millions and buy school supplies instead of playing partisan games.
We’re challenging the status quo in education, and the education establishment doesn’t like it. You see that with the whole voucher discussion, for example. Here’s an innovative way to help poor and minority children get a good education — because the education we have in this state is failing them, plain and simple. Opportunity Scholarships — vouchers — are a proven way to give underserved children a chance at a better life — and how does the education establishment react? They hate the idea of giving parents a choice of where to send their kids to school, because given the terrible track record of our public schools, especially for poor and minority kids, parents might make the choice to have their children educated in a better environment. The establishment can’t stand that. But it shouldn’t be about feeding the education establishment — it should be about our kids.
And to set the record straight, in 2013 I voted to increase funding for education programs by $400 million. This year I voted to substantially increase the starting pay for our teachers, one of the largest increases in state history. Those are facts. And if our pro-growth economic policies continue working, we’ll be able to do even more for our teachers in the coming years. And in a fiscally responsible way — not by charging teacher raises to the taxpayer credit card, like the other party was so fond of doing.
3. How do you feel about legislative actions addressing the environmental issues of the day such as energy exploration, air pollution and coal ash disposal?
I support them all enthusiastically. For the first time in 60 years, the General Assembly had the guts to take on the coal ash situation. The other party has known for decades about these problems and turned a blind eye — yet in the eyes of the full-time enviro-activists, we’re the bad actors. Is the new coal ash bill perfect? Of course not, but at least we finally managed to do something about it. It’s a great first step. Like the education establishment, enviro-activism has become more about politics than actually achieving results. I find it ironic that so many of these Negative Nancies in the legislature criticized our coal ash bill as not going far enough — when some of the very same people who are complaining now voted to specifically exempt coal ash from environmental cleanup measures when they were in charge. The hypocrisy is astounding and the media turns a blind eye.
As for energy exploration, I’m all for it — and despite the propaganda, we’ll be doing it in an environmentally safe way. Domestic energy independence is important not only for our economy, but for our national security. We can’t allow ourselves to be held hostage by foreign dictators halfway across the globe. I agree with the president and a majority of our nation’s Democrat governors who all support fracking.
Let me say something about this whole fracking thing for a second — I’ve never in my life seen more organized misinformation around an issue than I have with this. We’ve known for years that there’d be no fracking in Western North Carolina because we don’t have the right type of rock. The U.S. has been fracking for 60 years, so it’s not a new, risky technology. There have been no cases of groundwater contamination from fracking, no flaming faucets from fracking, none of that. But you’d never know it from watching TV or reading the paper. The intentional lies and fear mongering around this issue is mind boggling.
And it’s an industry that has brought job opportunities, economic prosperity and higher revenues to states and local communities, and now it’s our turn to join the energy revolution. That’s why the President and so many Democrat governors support it. We have a great article about fracking on my website if you’d like to learn more. It’s very well-documented. You can read it at http://nchouse116.com/fracking-awesome/
When it comes to the environment, we see the type of environmental outcomes brought to us by the so-called environmentalists and the political party they support which ran our state from 1870 to 2013. If that’s what they have in mind, then I’m not interested… and they need to really rethink who they are at their core.
I’m very proud of the legislature’s environmental record, which is one of balancing the need to be both good stewards of the environment and proponents of responsible economic development.
4. The General Assembly has been criticized for its move not to expand Medicaid. Do you think the state needs to expand the program? How do you see the ever-evolving Affordable Care Act affecting North Carolinians?
When you have major leaks in a boat, the last thing you do is throw more people into it. It isn’t good for anyone until the leaks get fixed. The most vulnerable in our state — children, the elderly, disabled folks, pregnant women, and the poor — are already covered under Medicaid, and unfortunately, adding hundreds of thousands of new patients to the Medicaid rolls — many whom are able-bodied working adults without kids — will only serve to reduce access for the truly disadvantaged and cause the enormous problems we already have with the program to only get worse.
We’re seeing fewer and fewer doctors accepting Medicaid because of the low reimbursement rates. So you have all these new patients forced into the system but you don’t have the doctors to see them, which results in longer and longer wait times and in many cases an unacceptable standard of care. One recent study I came across — it was from Harvard University, I believe — looked at what happened when Oregon expanded its Medicaid system. They not only ended up with worse healthcare outcomes, but emergency room visits practically doubled. That’s not good for anyone. Coverage is not the same thing as care.
Expanding Medicaid means that patients who are already enrolled in the program — many of whom have nowhere else to go for coverage — will be competing for medical services with millions more people being added to the program. And the most vulnerable patients who have the greatest needs are likely to have the hardest time getting care.
We’ve taken a lot of heat from folks on the far left for not expanding this program, but it’s another great example of how just throwing money at a problem doesn’t fix it — and it may come as a surprise to the folks on the left, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Medicaid currently costs North Carolina’s taxpayers over $13 billion a year and Medicaid spending has grown 90 percent over the last decade and more than 250% since 1990. It’s the fastest-growing part of our state budget.
Beth Wood, the state’s auditor, recently revealed over a billion dollars in mismanagement and bureacratic bloat in the state’s Medicaid system — she called it a “rat’s nest.” Last year, the General Assembly had to plug a half a billion dollar hole in the state budget that was specifically caused by additional unexpected Medicaid cost overruns.
Like I said, when you have major leaks in a boat, the last thing you do is throw more people into it. Let’s fix them first so we can be sure that the folks who need the help are getting it. It’s a big job, but Medicaid reform will be among the top priorities when we get back to Raleigh.
5. Has North Carolina become recently more or less attractive to business, in your opinion? Also, how can the rural areas of the state attract more business?
Without a doubt, our policies have made North Carolina more business-friendly. Just ask the job creators — who are expanding and adding jobs at an unprecedented rate. Since I’ve been in office, Buncombe county has added over 1,000 new jobs. The list of companies expanding jobs in Buncombe County is growing by the day. North Carolina’s unemployment rate has decreased faster than any other state in the nation.
I’ve been endorsed by both the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses for restructuring our tax code, reducing personal and business income taxes, and beginning the long process of untangling the knot of expensive and burdensome red tape. North Carolina jumped to the #5 spot on CNBC’s annual business ranking and the non-partisan Tax Foundation raised North Carolina’s business tax climate from 44th in the nation up to 17th — that’s a 27 point jump in just one year. This list goes on. That tells me that we must be doing something right.
How do we attract more businesses to rural areas of the state? There are no simple answers, but there is something we can do. Aside from providing an attractive environment overall in terms of lower taxes and less red tape for businesses to start up and operate — and we’ve made great strides in that regard, like I mentioned — I think state government can provide a key role by literally paving the way.
Let me tell you what I mean by that. State government has to do its best to make sure that the infrastructure in place so businesses can thrive. The key to attracting businesses in more rural areas is more and better roads. But for too long, our rural areas were neglected in that regard — including here in the mountains — because of political games in the Raleigh. Decisions on where to build and how to keep up our roads and so forth were determined by what kind of political influence an area had — and for some of our more rural areas, that wasn’t very much. Unfortunately, the quality of the road usually depended on the power of the legislator who represented the area.
But our transportation reforms passed this past year — thanks to my good friend and colleague Representative Bill Brawley of Mecklenburg County — are an excellent first start. The new law prioritizes each new project based on its objective merit and economic development value — and removes favoritism and patronage from the process. Which roads, bridges, and highways actually get built will now be based on need — and not on politics. That’s why you’ve already seen some significant movement already on so many projects — and now that we’ve layed the groundwork to get those transportation dollars going to where they need go, you’ll see a lot of our rural areas, neglected for so long by the other party, start to finally get the attention and resources that they deserve.