Representative Craig Horn Newsletter, July 5
The long session has recessed. The General Assembly will reconvene next week, but probably will only schedule committee meetings and prepare for redistricting debates to be held the last week of July.
This session has been one of the most productive in NC history. When we took office on January 26, 2011, North Carolina was over $2.5 Billion in the hole. When we recessed on June 18, not only had we closed the gap and balanced the budget but also we implemented the largest tax relief in the history of North Carolina. In addition this session saw action on such issues as Tort Reform, Workman’s Compensation Reform and Criminal Justice Reform. We passed and signed into law bills that made artificial drugs illegal and restricted access to the basic ingredient used in making Meth. We increased access to Early Voting by extending the hours and adding an extra Saturday. We removed the cap on Charter Schools, created the Castle Doctrine for home defense, made the constitutionally required deposit in the retirement system and put the state benefits program on sound financial footing. We did not borrow from the Highway Trust Fund to pay General Fund obligation. And we passed a “Photo ID to Vote” requirement. Although subsequently vetoed by the governor, this legislation is supported by over 70 percent of North Carolinians. I am hopeful that we will attempt to override the governor’s decision.
Budget negotiations were challenging and painful. Revenues have decreased sharply in the last year. Stimulus money had dried up and increasing entitlements and unfunded recurring expenses were choking our state. We could neither borrow nor print more money. We all knew that cuts were inevitable. This legislature was determined to not raise taxes and not send unfunded mandates down to the counties and towns across North Carolina. Every department and every state-funded activity knew well ahead of time that everything was under the microscope. School systems in particular were bracing for cuts up to 15 percent. Most said that they would be fine if we could hold the cuts to 10 percent or less. The Governor had proposed a cut of 5 percent in her budget, but shoved unfunded programs down to the local systems. This legislature implemented a 5.5 percent cut in public education, only a 1/2 percent more than the governor recommended, but did NOT send any unfunded programs down to the local districts. Classroom hours were increased, but the school year was not. Tests were eliminated, but new instruction on our Founding Principles was added to the curricullum. All state-funded teaching and teacher assistant positions were funded in full.
The Governor has vetoed more bills this year than the last four governors combined. So far, the General Assembly has overridden her veto on the budget bill and it is now law. This is the first time in recent memory that a budget has been passed and implemented before the beginning of the fiscal year. The process was difficult but open. And for the first time that anyone can recall, the full budget was available to anyone and everyone a full four days before the General Assembly engaged in debate and took action. There are many issues yet to be resolved – more veto override votes, constitutional amendments to be debated and re-districting maps to be approved.
Undoubtedly, we stubbed out toes a time or two, but the results have been nothing short of terrific. I am proud to have played a part. We will continue to work throughout the summer and fall to prepare for the next session and to deal with the many issues that are important to our district. As always, I ask for your input, your criticism and your advice. I am available by phone through the Raleigh office (919-733-6406) and email at Craig.Horn@ncleg.net. I wish you all a safe and enjoyable summer. Please keep in contact and help us raise the bar for Union County and the State of North Carolina.