A column in the News & Observer recently questioned whether North Carolina Republicans possess a governing philosophy.
The Republican philosophy for North Carolina is apparent to any mildly informed observer not predisposed to blind partisanship. After all, we’ve adhered to it for more than a decade.
Our governance is built on the premise that the cumulative decisions of a free people create more wealth, opportunity, and progress than any government bureaucracy or central planning could ever achieve.
From that premise stems our approach to the issues that North Carolinians care about most: taxes, spending, and education.
On taxes, Republicans believe that people spend their money better than government spends their money. The private economic decisions of millions of people allocate resources more efficiently than some government-run bureaucracy can. This basic economic principle turned America into the wealthiest, most advanced nation the world has ever seen.
In keeping with that philosophy, Republicans cut the personal income tax rate to the current 5.25 percent, and we hope to cut it again to below 5 percent. The result was budget surpluses in six of the last seven years.
And we more than tripled the zero-tax bracket to benefit those with lower incomes by increasing the standard deduction from $6,000 to $21,500, and propose to increase it again to $25,500. Thus a family of four at the poverty line will pay zero percent income tax on its earnings.
On spending, Republicans believe that some expenditures are clearly the province and responsibility of government, but that we must take care to keep government interventions narrowly focused and avoid dabbling in matters best left to the private sector. It’s usually best to keep government spending growth predictable, ideally at or below the value of inflation plus population growth.
But in those areas where government does have a role, for example infrastructure, we should invest wisely. That’s why Senate Republicans support using available cash for infrastructure investments, rather than taking out a mortgage. We have more than $5 billion in unrestricted cash, and we should use it to fix our roads and bridges instead of taking on debt via a bond.
On education, Republicans believe that every child possesses the ability and intellect to create their own success in life. Some children come from wealthy, two-parent households. Some come from poor, broken homes. Many fit somewhere in between. But the circumstances of birth don’t determine innate ability, and each child deserves an equal opportunity to develop their God-given talents via a publicly funded education.
To that end, Republicans created the Opportunity Scholarship program with grants to less fortunate children so they, too, can attend private schools previously reserved for the wealthy if they so choose.
We eliminated the arbitrary cap on public charter schools so families have more choice in how best to educate their children.
And we’ve invested record amounts in the education budget, including per pupil spending and teacher salaries, although dollars do not by themselves generate a quality education.
Sure, columnists can pick and choose discrete issues over the past 10 years that, in their estimation, run counter to our governing philosophy. The give and take of legislating in a diverse representative democracy will always produce exceptions to any rule. That’s a feature, not a bug.
But Republicans’ governing philosophy is unmistakable to any interested observer. It is the right course for our state; the results over the past 10 years support that conclusion, as North Carolina has become one of the best states in the country to live and work.
Phil Berger is N.C. Senate President Pro Tempore and represents District 30.