CARY GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory on Wednesday outlined a series of proposals including tax cuts, more aggressive energy exploration, and a more business-friendly regulatory environment to help jump-start North Carolinas economy.
In a roundtable discussion with small-business owners in Cary, McCrory argued that North Carolina had lost ground to its economic competitors during the past decade. He said the state was losing industrial prospects to neighboring states, that wealthy residents were moving elsewhere because of the states high income taxes, and that small businesses were being stymied by state and local regulations that were not customer friendly.
He said the fact that North Carolina had the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the country was evidence that the state needed to take a new approach.
During the past decade, our brand has been tarnished whether we like to admit it or not, McCrory said. Many of you in business know that you cannot live off your brand forever. Right now I see the competition, even in the surrounding states of South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, where they have some governors who are incredibly dynamic, who are trying to take our companies. And some of these companies are saying, We can move.
We have to take some very strong and proactive stances to become more business-friendly.
While he has talked about many of the ideas previously, Wednesday was the first time that McCrory had packaged them together into an economic proposal.
On taxes, McCrory said cutting individual income tax by an unspecified amount for all North Carolinians would be a top priority of his administration. He said the state income tax is now the highest in the Southeast and the ninth-highest in the country.
A high personal income tax is squeezing our states top job creators and driving them to other states while taxing our workers productivity, he said in his proposal.
North Carolinas highest income tax rate is 7.75 percent.
He is also proposing to reduce the states 6.9 percent corporate tax rate and to eliminate the inheritance tax.
Estates worth up to $5.1 million are now exempt from the tax.
North Carolinas combined state and local tax burden of 9.8 percent is the national average, according to the conservative Tax Foundation in Washington. In 1977, the combined tax burden was 9.7 percent, according to the foundation.
He also pledged to improve the regulatory environment.
Right now, small-business owners rate North Carolinas regulatory climate among the worst in the nation, he said.
McCrory said he ran into one businessman at a Raleigh restaurant Tuesday night who was thinking about moving his three manufacturing plants out of North Carolina because I dont feel North Carolina is customer friendly to my business. He said he gets nitpicked to death and is being recruited by other states.
It was unsolicited, me walking out to my car, McCrory said.
He also called for a more aggressive energy effort, including creating regulations for natural gas exploration both offshore and on land. But in doing so, McCrory pledged to protect the states natural resources and water supplies.
McCrory said he would put a premium on customer service in state government, streamline government services and permitting processes, eliminate redundant commissions and committees, appoint people who understand the private sector, and fight onerous mandates such as the health care law pushed by President Barack Obama.
Other proposals included:
• Creating a 25-year transportation and infrastructure plan to send a clear signal to the business community of the states future investments in roads, railroads, bridges, ports, airports and other infrastructure.
• Create a better workforce by improving the public schools through improving basic writing and reading skills in the early grades, offering more vocational education training, and other proposals.
• Push agribusiness, including export of North Carolina products.
• Go on trade missions overseas to open up new markets in areas such as Southeast Asia, India and Africa.