North Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (Youtube)
Earlier this month I was in North Carolina applauding the future of conservatism: principled, state leaders who are moving the state forward by rejecting the unwise policies of Congress and President Obama and passing bold, free market reforms and rejecting billions of federal taxpayer dollars. Just this week, Governor Pat McCrory, with strong support from GOP state legislators, announced that he would not set up a state health care exchange or expand the Medicaid program.
On cue, the liberal editorial writers – and even some Republicans who should know better – are criticizing these legislators and the Governor for rejecting the expansion of Medicaid, refusing to set up a state health exchange, and turning down “free” federal money for extended unemployment benefits. What the critics fail to comprehend is that the Governor and these legislators are trying to save American taxpayers from the federal government and the federal government from itself.
They know the federal government is effectively bankrupt and someone must put us on a more responsible course.
One of these new leaders is the North Carolina State Senate Leader, Phil Berger.
Phil is a blue collar guy at heart. As a young husband and father, he stacked particleboard on assembly lines, painted houses and worked as a grocery store produce clerk to provide for his family and put himself through community college and then law school. His wife worked in a mill, spooling denim.
In 2010 he led a conservative takeover of the North Carolina State Senate, becoming the first Republican in over 100 years to lead the chamber and began pushing a raft of reforms, some of which were stymied by a liberal governor.
Only days into this year’s session, Senator Berger and his chamber have already passed a bill rejecting state health care exchanges and the expansion of Medicaid.
House Speaker Thom Tillis has courageously led his chamber in passing a bill rejecting federal-provided long-term unemployment entitlement benefits because they know research demonstrates that when a person receives unemployment benefits for over six months they are less likely they are to go out and find a job. Governor Pat McCrory has announced he will sign both bills.
Meanwhile, also in North Carolina, I joined our local AFP activists for visits to the local offices of several members of the North Carolina congressional delegation, including Senator Kay Hagan. Our goal was to encourage them to listen to their constituents and hold the line on spending, as the state legislature is doing.
In 2013, the federal government is once again slated to spend more than $3.5 trillion, with nearly $1 trillion of that spending adding to the national debt. The federal government’s runaway spending continues to impede the economic recovery, immorally shift debt onto future generations and ignore our nation’s long-term problems. It’s long past time for Congress and the President to cut spending and reform entitlements.
On March 1, the Budget Control Act of 2011 is set to reduce federal spending by $85 billion this year through the automatic sequester cuts. This is a small but important first step. Congress should keep its word and stick to these cuts. The sequester will reduce discretionary spending by $28.7 billion, defense spending by $42.7 billion, Medicare by $9.9 billion and interest expenses by $4 billion.
These are an important first step, but Congress will still have plenty of work to get spending under control. Fundamental entitlement reform that saves a needed safety net for the future is the only way to fix the long-term budget problems.
We must ensure that Washington keeps its word to implement this year’s modest spending cuts. Yet, we cannot solve our nation’s budget problems with small cuts in discretionary programs. In order to solve our nation’s fiscal problems we must reform our outdated and broken federal entitlement programs to ensure that we honor our obligations to current recipients and protect the programs for future generations.
Will the North Carolina Congressional Delegation lead on the issue of spending? Will others?
We will be asking this question across the country.
In the meantime we will continue to highlight more state lawmakers like Phil Berger who are making the responsible decision to not accept “free” federal money. Berger knows that this money is not “free” or even real – it’s just one more bill to over-burdened taxpayers. By rejecting the federal taxpayer money, he is placing the interests of the nation and future generations ahead of short-term political interests.
By fighting to bring economic growth and genuine prosperity to North Carolina, Mr. Berger and his colleagues in the state legislature are the future – not just for the Republican Party, but for our conservative movement.
We are going to find out if Washington, D.C. Republicans will follow them.