Monday, March 9, 2009

NCGOP Chairman Delivers "The State of State Government"

NCGOP Press Release
March 9, 2009

RALEIGH— North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Linda Daves delivered the following address tonight entitled, "The State of State Government."

The full text of her remarks is below.

"Good evening. Tonight, Governor Perdue finds herself in an unenviable position. Facing hard budget realities, rapidly decreasing revenue collection, and a massive budget shortfall, she is breaking bad news in her first major speech to North Carolinians. Her acceptance of serious budget cuts is welcome news if belated as Republicans have called for rollbacks in state spending for years. I also hope that Governor Perdue will keep her promise to avoid raising taxes. In this difficult time for North Carolina's workers and families, we simply cannot afford to pay higher taxes. In many ways, the Governor is on the right track.

We would be remiss, however, not to take note of how we made it to this point and now face serious cutbacks or catastrophic consequences. After all, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and we certainly never want to find ourselves in this situation with state government again. Over the last decade, North Carolina governors and the General Assembly led by Democrats, have greatly increased state spending and expanded the reach of state government. In just the last ten years, state spending has increased by 40% overextending the reach of government and resulting in budgets bursting at the seams. Democrats bought into the idea that good economic times and healthy revenue collections would last forever. Our leaders should know better. The ebb and flow of the economy always proceeds in cycles. Neither periods of plenty nor periods of poverty last indefinitely. Politicians, whether in Raleigh or Washington, should not make promises that they can't keep.

To their credit, Democrats did create a rainy day fund to keep state government running in case of emergency. Unfortunately, now with a budget of $21.4 billion, our rainy day fund sits at only $800 million, just 4 percent of the total budget. This may cover an afternoon sprinkle but hardly provides for the hailstorm currently assaulting state government. We must be proactive, we must anticipate problems before they occur, and above all we must be responsible with taxpayer dollars. Under Republican leadership, our South Carolina neighbors have a budget of just $6.8 billion. Granted, South Carolina is a smaller state than North Carolina, but it's not that much smaller. Fiscal responsibility is the best defense against hard times.

If this crisis can be of any benefit, we must learn a lesson and take a more realistic approach to state spending in the future. After all, I have not once encountered a citizen of our state in awe of the service of state government. No one is raving about how much better state government is now than it was a decade ago. Yet, even accounting for inflation and population growth over the last ten years, we are paying more than ever before. It is fair for taxpayers to ask: Are we getting our money's worth?

Democrats contend that the problem really originates with the exploding spending being caused by previous commitments made to Medicare and Medicaid. But what is their answer to this problem of government programs running over budget and creating a crisis? Create an even bigger government program to nationalize healthcare because they believe that is the way to increase efficiency and drive down costs. Now in what other area of life do we ever praise the efficiency and innovation of government programs? A new big government-run health care program will not drive down costs. It will only result in the most expensive "free" health care that money can buy. Make no mistake. We are in a health care crisis with the brunt of its effects being felt by the middle class. The answer to our problems is not more government. It's less. We need less government mandates and obstacles to families being able to choose their own affordable healthcare plans. We must push government out of the way, decrease the influence of insurance companies, and increase of the influence of doctors and patients. We need new, proactive, and innovative solutions to this crisis and I don't hear those ideas coming from government. More government means more costs overruns, more red tape, and less freedom to make appropriate and responsible choices when selecting our own healthcare. I hope for a real and honest debate on this issue right here in Raleigh and in D.C. All ideas should be heard as we come to the table to seek solutions to this crisis facing our families.

Now is also not the time to forsake the commitments we have made to education in our state. Unfortunately, many of the cuts being made in the state budget will directly affect our children's future. Our children are not to blame for this crisis and they should not be made the scapegoats for our problems. Governor Perdue, unfortunately, has done just that by breaking the promise made to North Carolinians that lottery proceeds would be used to fund educational needs. Governor Perdue should know better as she cast the deciding vote to pass the lottery into law even as Democrats promised us that money would never be diverted for other purposes. That money belongs to our children and the Governor should give it back.

The question remains, however: Where do we cut the state budget? Well, I have a few ideas to start us off.

We must end the political games going on over at the Department of Transportation. It has been treated for too long as a political slush fund and wasted hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars over the last decade. Governor Perdue deserves commendation for her promise to reform the DOT, remove powerful political influences, and create a professional environment there. She must keep that promise.

We also must stop funding pirate ships, teapot museums, polar bear exhibits, and other pet projects of state legislators. Even the insider of all insiders in Raleigh, Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight has compared the spending habits of state legislators to drunken sailors. Drunken sailors are rightly offended by this comparison. Democrats in the General Assembly have acted far more irresponsibly and have done so not on their own dime but on ours.
Finally, we must stop funding the re-election campaigns of incumbents under the guise of public campaign financing. If politicians want public campaign finance, then gain the support of the public to finance your campaign. Incumbents should be forced to earn re-election, not steal it from taxpayers. There is nothing more damaging to democracy than a system which uses the money of voters to gain their votes and keep the same people in perpetual power.

There are many more areas that can be cut, but even so, that approach presupposes that some government programs are untouchable and unquestionable. Our problems are not new but they do demand a new approach. Zero-based budgeting is an idea whose time has come. This crisis presents us with the opportunity to start from scratch, decide what our true priorities are, commit to spending money on those items first, and to do so more efficiently than ever before. It is long past time for state government to get its house in order. Now we are forced to do so.
As a conservative, I believe that government should be smaller, smarter, and more efficient. As a conservative, I believe that government should attend to its core functions of protecting citizens, providing educational opportunity, and preserving strong infrastructure. I believe that taxpayer dollars should only be spent in the wisest way possible. As a conservative and as a taxpayer, I believe I have the right to demand that the government we have works and works efficiently. And I believe we have the right to hold our elected officials accountable for not providing that government.

Republicans stand ready to offer ideas to combat this current crisis. We must open up the process so more voices might be heard and heeded and the citizens of North Carolina can hold us accountable for what we do. Republican calls for responsibility have been unheeded in the past and our voices have been silenced. Today is a new day. We have been waiting and we will be waiting for a seat at the table. Now is the time for us all to work together, to work through our differences, and to do what is best for our state and its citizens. As Republicans, we hope for the opportunity to do just that.

Thank you for listening and God bless."