NC House Speaker Thom Tillis provided some hints as to what the General Assembly may do this year. Here is what I took away from it.
He sounded confident that the GA could keep the budget numbers looking OK, compared the nearly $3 billion debt that loomed three years ago.
On K-12 schools, look for the GA to try to use the success of charter schools as a model for bringing more flexibility and innovation to the larger system. Whether such success can be translated to the regular school bureaucracy is an open question, however.
On higher education, he said the state has to make sure college students develop the skill sets the market really wants.
It could be argued that in today’s economy it’s not prudent to major in, say, literature, gender studies, etc.
“We will move very aggressively on regulatory reform,” he said, and not just for business, but for regular citizens.
On upgrading the Carolina Panthers stadium, I understood Tillis to say it was inappropriate for state dollars to go directly to upgrading the NFL team’s arena. The key point: how much emphasis should be put on the word “directly.”
Tillis did assert that the team is a major employer in Mecklenburg County — which is his home turf.
On possible changes to unemployment benefits, he noted that the program wasn’t meant to be a permanent entitlement, but just a bridge to finding a new job. It sounded as if the GOP is willing to move ahead on trimming benefits.
On tax modernization, he said that one proposal for a real estate transfer tax “could be problematic.” He did support reductions in the income tax, as many in the GOP are calling for; it remains unclear what kind of reductions will finally be approved.
On Medicare and Medicaid, he noted that “it’s not free money.” He added that the costs of the programs create uncertainty that harms the economy. That debate will bedevil the Legislature for the rest of session, and beyond.