When the legislature opened a couple of weeks ago, Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger delivered a speech touting the success of Republicans over the past 12 of power. He took credit for the economic growth in North Carolina and bragged that the GOP had changed the state. “Over the last 12 years and following the simple formula of lower taxes, less regulation, and a commitment to quality education, our state has flourished. North Carolina regularly ranks as a top state for business and jobs. We continue to recruit and attract a wide variety of employers and entrepreneurs to the state.”
In reality, North Carolina already ranked regularly as a top state for business and jobs before Republicans took over state government. We were already recruiting and attracting a wide range of employers and entrepreneurs. Republican policies on taxes and regulation had little to do with it. In fact, North Carolina grew more slowly during the decade that Republicans took control than it did the previous decade when Democrats were in power.
As for their commitment to quality education, that’s a pretty laughable claim. Our teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation. Our per pupil spending has dropped to embarrassing lows. Our test scores have fallen. The politicization of our university system has caused researchers to leave and we’ll never know how many professors decided against coming to a university system in such turmoil. The university system has survived without more damage because of the stellar and solid reputation built under Democratic leadership over the previous 50 years, but continued interference from legislators could break it still.
In the wake of HB 2, North Carolina lost millions, and possibly billions of dollars in business. The NBA pulled the All Star game from Charlotte. PayPal canceled a planned expansion in the state. Again, we’ll never know how many companies bypassed North Carolina because of legislation like HB2 and discriminatory bills that garnered national attention. The election of Roy Cooper governor gave companies reassurances that the state was not totally moving into the dark ages. Cooper and his moderate approach to governing attracted more companies than the GOP legislature scared away.
The Republican belief that taxes and regulations are the overriding factors in businesses deciding where to locate is outdated. Today, with steep, international competition for qualified employees, businesses also want states that welcome a younger and diverse workforce. They want good schools and universities because infrastructure is no longer just roads, water, and sewer. Science and technology is by far the fastest growing sector in the state.
Under Democrats, North Carolina was always considered a business friendly state. Taxes were low enough to attract the top companies to the state and the start-up environment was one of the best in the country. However, we were also considered a leader in education. We had steadily improving K-12 schools and what was generally considered one of the top university systems in the nation. We also had one of the best community college systems. The combination made the state attractive for top industries.
Republicans seem to have moderated a bit from their fire breathing early days controlling the legislature, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The GOP seems poised to nominate Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson as their gubernatorial candidate. Robinson’s extremism would almost certainly put a damper on our industrial recruitment efforts. His hateful and divisive rhetoric would discourage companies and there would be no check on the worst instincts of the GOP legislature dominated by MAGA-type Republicans. A GOP-controlled legislature and Robinson administration could set us back 20 years.
North Carolina’s economy has flourished in spite of Republicans, not because of them. Our national reputation, though, has taken a hit. We’re no longer seen as welcoming and forward thinking. We’re viewed with caution by the rest of the country. Businesses decide to come here as much for our central location, our moderate climate, our access to ports and airports, our good roads, our university and community college systems, and our progressive New South cities as they do for taxes and regulations.
We have stark and important decisions to make about North Carolina’s future this coming decade. We can either build on our natural advantages and our historic investments in education with welcoming policies that embrace inclusion and individual freedom, or we can move backward by ceding control to people who see diversity as a weakness, not a strength. The decision to build North Carolina into a modern economic powerhouse beginning in the 1950s depended on forward thinking leadership. Had the mentality embodied by Republicans controlled North Carolina for those 50 years, we would be more like Mississippi or Alabama today. That’s certainly not where we need to go.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >
Here’s a book to celebrate the GOP takeover of the government of NC: “Entering North Carolina, Set Clocks Back 100 Years” by Jim Leutze 
Things in NC have been objectively better in every regard since the Republicans have been in charge.
WELCOME TO NC, SET YOUR WATCH BACK 500 YEARS!
Well, the facts do not support the notion Republicans have been good for this state. Education is something this state needs to support, however, it would appear Republicans seem to regard it as less important than painting curbs.
Public schools are having problems recruiting and retention of teachers due to low pay and lousy benefits. The results of an assessment done in 2020 disclosed NC Teachers are making more than four other states but less than 7 other southern states. The Republican solution is the charter school. These Republican created schools do not require their teachers or administrators to be credentialed plus exempt their students from end of grade tests (EOG). Many of these charter schools have been closed due to low academic standards resulting in their students being placed in the over stressed public schools. These charter schools may be prosperous for the owner/operators, but come up short as a general rule in educating your kids. Tom pinpointed several other areas, i.e., the so called bathroom bill which was designed to express an opinion but did not curtail unacceptable behavior. Moreover, there is legislation on the books that addressed this issue. This ridiculous piece of Republican legislation cost this state millions, if not billions in current and future economic development.
I totally agree with you. Charter schools are a way to middle-man the money in education so that some shlub can come in and make money off the public dime. The end product has gotten worse, but a select group of individuals have been able to line their pockets.
I’m sure you’ve thought of this too, but to be candid, I’d love to see some of Wes’ “…objective[s]…” listed that have made Republican control of North Carolina so much better “…in every regard….” That way, we can know precisely what we are talking about.
Anybody who believes things go better under Republican stewardship, obviously have little or no appreciation of how this country works. Moreover, it is doubtful they could articulate specific points where this could be the case. They learn by experiencing the discomfort most certainly to follow from the sloppy way Republicans are handling themselves. Example: this recent speaker of the house debacle or the debt ceiling fiasco. It should be obvious; Republicans do not know how to govern.
What exactly would those things be?
North Carolina schools have had cuts to their budgets such that few of the school systems in the state are able to provide needed help to students who are not at the top of their classes, but may have some learning disabilities and need special education. My wife and I have custody of her grandson. We are pulling him out of school to home school him. The bullying problem also runs strong in our district.
I am not a member of the Constitutional Sheriff’s and Peace Officers group, nor do I have any idea what this organization advocates.
Addressing this bullying issue: Totally unacceptable, but not the fault of the school system, clearly a product of poor parenting. Parents are not making the effort to teach their offspring the basic rules of living with others. Moreover, in some cases set bad role models by their own conduct. The result is kids verbally and physically assaulting other students, teachers and administrators. In some cases, as occurred recently bringing a weapon to school and shooting a teacher. The school system’s primary responsibility is to invest kids with the skills to make a living and be useful members of society. The solution to this issue is make parents legally and morally responsible for the ante social behavior of their kids. If the parent has to pay a hefty fine or spend the week end in the slammer, this problem will go away in a NY second.