The last time N.C. Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, a Republican, spoke to the Council of Independent Business Owners, he did it over breakfast. Today, less than six months after his last appearance, he did it over lunch.
After receiving a brief introduction from Buncombe County Rep. Tim Moffitt, Tillis began by sharing that the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce and the North Carolina FreeEnterprise Foundation called the Tar Heel state's current General Assembly the most business-friendly legislature the organizations have ever seen. He was quick to add, "But this is not in terms of me coming in and shaking hands with business people, but in terms of what we did."
For example, Tillis said the GOP cut $1.5 billion in taxes and created bills related to issues like medical malpractice and workers' compensation. There were also some changes this year in the General Assembly that made it so each member could only submit 10 bills. "Though this sounds like a small number, when you think that there's 120 members in the General Assembly, that's 1,200 bills," he explained. He also touted the quickness of the assembly to finish its first session before July 4 — a goal that he says he wants to meet again.
With concerns about the economy on the minds of business leaders in the room, Tillis said that he believes that the state could still have lot of potential growth in legacy industries like textiles and furniture. However, he also said North Carolina "needs to own" new industries like biotechnology and the energy sector, as well as revitalized industries like agriculture. In terms of the energy, he said the House will soon start to explore the regulations and environmental issues involved with allowing natural gas drilling in the state. And he said he supported the pending merger of Progress Energy and Duke.
Tillis also touched on education issues, or what he referred to as "true education reform." He would like to see the creation and implementation of a merit-pay system for K-12 teachers. "This gives higher-rated teachers more pay, and lower-rated teachers a chance to improve," Tillis said.
One person asked for an update on the Interstate 26 connector slated to replace or augment the Smokey Park Bridge that crosses the French Broad River near downtown Asheville. Tillis replied that he did not have an update but that waiting 35 years for this connector "doesn't pass the logic test."
Toward the end of the luncheon, Tillis said that last year's General Assembly will "seem like child's play" compared to what is planned for the coming year, promising aggressive action on as many fronts as possible. He had effusive praise for Moffitt, calling him one of the smartest and most articulate members of the House. And he also gave a nod of confidence to Republican House District 115 candidate Nathan Ramsey, saying he hopes to see him in next year's General Assembly.
Here's video of Tillis' opening remarks:
Twitter momentsA compilation of Senior Staff Reporter David Forbes' live dispatches via Twitter during the CIBO "Power Lunch" featuring Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, Republican:
12:31 PM Rep. Tim Moffitt introducing #ncga house speaker Thom Tillis at Council of Independent Business Owners “power lunch”
12:39 PM Tillis touting tenure as "most business-friendly legislature they've ever seen" by biz advocacy groups
12:40 PM Tillis: less regulation, unemployment, worker's comp changes geared to costing biz less responsible for that designation
12:42 PM Tillis: Can endure shortfall without major budget cuts, want to spare K-12 from cuts, pursue "true education reform"
12:44 PM Tillis: Tax reform will aim to "broaden the base, lower the rate" promises will make everyone in the room angry about something
12:47 PM Tillis promises "last year will seem like child's play" compared to plans for this year's #ncga activities
12:51 PM Tillis: We'll look at restructuring DoT, moving some to private sector. Need to look at tolls, local corridor sales taxes
1:00 PM Tillis: Areas we do need to find some relief, new funding, like rural areas, but most school systems "need to step up to table"
1:05 PM JakeFrankel Tillis: We need to find a way to make the merger work between Progress energy and Duke #ncga
1:08 PM Tillis: A lot of potential in legacy industries like textiles, furniture, also "need to own" biotech, energy, agriculture #ncga
1:09 PM Tillis on Duke-Progress Energy: "need to find way to make that merger work," create largest power comp in US
1:10 PM Tillis on criticism re: lack of jobs bill: tax cuts, malpractice, worker's comp reforms count are jobs bills
1:13 PM Tillis: Want to make sure NC is the last place the fed gov withdraws military from as it downsizes.
1:15 PM Tillis: Need to help veterans, esp w jobs in tight econ times #ncga
1:17 PM Tillis: Considering sales tax on services. Need to look at all types of services.
1:22 PM Tillis: Need more transportation funding, waiting 35 years for I-26 connector "doesn't pass the logic test"
1:25 PM Question to Tillis about higher than avg state unemployment rate, Tillis says building industry downfall at heart of issue #ncga
1:26 PM Tillis: We got the development boom, and we got hit. Explains about 3/4 of the diff between our rate, natl avg