When asked what the GOP-led N.C. Legislature has done to create jobs, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis touted bills that reform workers’ compensation rules, address over-regulation and cut taxes. “That’s creating the underlying environment for businesses to grow,” said Tillis during a breakfast meeting of the Asheville-based Council of Independent Business Owners.
Speaking to a mostly conservative group of businessmen at the Biltmore Square Mall food court, Tillis also quipped that journalists “who ask ‘Where’s your jobs bill’ don’t understand business.”
Republican bills dealing with such issues as medical malpractice, workers’ compensation — combined with the $1.5 billion Tillis says the GOP budget cut in taxes — will produce private jobs instead of growing government, he continued.
Tillis, who represents the 98th District (Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, primarily) in the North Carolina House, kept up the pro-business beat during the breakfast meeting: He slammed Gov. Bev Perdue, calling her an obstructionist on Republican efforts to cut regulations that hurt business owners and blaming her lack of business experience on the state’s failed bid to get Continental Tire to locate a plant in North Carolina. “She’s never had to sign a paycheck,” he said.
He also held up the record number of bills pushed through the Legislature by Republicans as evidence that they’re running the government with businesslike efficiency.
But his responses on a few questions from CIBO members demonstrated more complexity.
Asked about rumors that the state was about to hand over ownership and maintenance of secondary roads to local governments — a potentially expensive challenge for counties and cities — Tillis replied with an almost Democratlike notion: North Carolina has the most state-owned roads of any state except Texas, he explained. Yet, “we do not raise enough money to invest in our infrastructure.” To avoid merely dumping the cost of maintaining secondary roads on counties and municipalities, creative ways of raising revenue must be explored, including toll roads, Tillis said.
As for the new federal healthcare law that takes affect soon, Tillis said, “Anyone who supports it needs to be [put] out of office.” The federal government shouldn’t force a one-size-fits-all system on states, he continued. Yet … “We still have the obligation to fix healthcare,” he said.
Some actions Republicans are taking in that direction? Legislators are looking at how competition is fostered (or not) in the state — whether that means dealing with competition between hospitals or insurance. Tillis mentioned Blue Cross Blue Shield’s dominant position in North Carolina, noting that he’s “willing to take a look at that.”
Another member question referenced the recent controversy over possible corruption in the local Alcoholic Beverage Control board. There have been a number of similar controversies statewide in recent years. Tillis acknowledged that how North Carolina regulates alcohol creates a difficult problem. Government, political and business interests are intertwined in the ABC, locally and across the state. There are also moral conundrums. In short, the ABC is “one heck of a political, financial hairball.”
On another tack, when asked whether the state pension fund was assuming overly large returns, Tillis replied that State Treasurer Janet Cowell is one of the most competent elected officials he knows. Voicing his confidence in her, he said, “I don’t believe all Democrats are incompetent.”