Regional business leadership gathered Nov. 12th to thank our WNC delegation for their work during the 2015 NC General Assembly legislative session. Advocacy and Policy Committee Chair Ken Maxwell of Frontier Communications shared highlights of the session:
“All the other Chambers involved with the WNC Chambers Coalition have similar processes and we all work to create the legislative priorities for our region. Being intimately involved in the process of identifying the issues from our region, creating a legislative agenda, and advocating on the ground in Raleigh, it is awesome to see our advocacy efforts come full circle and be able to thank our legislators and celebrate some legislative victories. I will now briefly mention a few:
In the category of Infrastructure Improvement, the chambers have supported:
• Developing long-term transportation funding reforms that strengthens our state’s infrastructure and provides our economy with the support it needs to thrive as a global economic leader.
The WNC Chambers were pleased to advocate for and see SB 20 passed. This bill stabilizes the gas tax and works to set the ground work for comprehensive transportation reform. We know that the gas tax is no longer a viable long-term form of transportation funding and it is critical we protect our infrastructure assets.
In addition, a top priority of the chamber has been the completion of the I-26 Connector project. While we realize that there are several I-26 route options being considered and differing opinions about them, we know that I-26 is critical not just for Asheville but the success of the entire region. Therefore, the chambers were pleased to see the project take another step forward with the recent release of the environmental impact study.
In the field of Economic Development the Chambers supported:
• Economic and community development incentives and other tools to keep Western North Carolina competitive in the attraction and retention of jobs.
This was the chambers number one priority for the session. We heard from economic developers around our region that tools such as JDIG and ONE NC are critical to their jobs. That is why we spent countless hours driving to Raleigh and communicating with legislators about the importance of the NC Competes Act. We thank our elected officials for helping to fully fund JDIG and the ONE NC fund.
In the field of Education the chambers advocated for:
• Supporting across the board pay increases for North Carolina’s educators with the goal of NC educator salaries meeting the national average in five years.
The Chambers were pleased to see the General Assembly provide teachers with a pay increase and encourage them to continue to support our teachers and schools.
In the field of Tax Modernization:
• Support tax modernization reform efforts resulting in “across the board” tax rate reductions-broadening the tax base to help lower rates for businesses and individuals; determining the most valuable incentives for economic and community development efforts; simplifying compliance; ensuring no specific industry is targeted; and a tax system that would be fair and would make our state more competitive in attracting business.
The WNC Chambers were pleased to see the final state budget include a reduction in the personal income tax, which will take place in 2017. The corporate income tax in NC will also drop to 4% this year. The chambers were also pleased to see the state change to a single sales factor state, which will help with economic development and make us more competitive with our neighboring states.”