As Chairman of the North Carolina Energy Forum, a non-partisan group , I testified at a North Carolina Senate Commerce Committee hearing in support of SB76 - Domestic Energy Jobs Act.
Here is the transcript of my remarks:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, ladies and gentlemen in the public.
My name is Algenon Cash. I live in Kernersville and I am a small business owner who volunteered several years ago to help launch the NC Energy Forum. Last year, I was appointed Chairman of that non-partisan group. For the past six months, I have traveled across our great state, I have met with business owners, community advocates, and families to educate them and build awareness about the amazing opportunity that we have before us to fix our state economy, restore jobs, and boost tax revenue for critical public services.
I'm pleased to speak in favor of Senate Bill 76 - the Domestic Energy Jobs Act - drafted under the leadership of Senator Newton, Senator Rucho, and Senator Brock.
Governor McCrory delivered his State of the State address last night and eloquently stated the next four years are about the people of this great state, so my message to you today is simple: Let's get NC in the energy business. Senate Bill 76 wisely pushes for energy jobs both onshore and offshore, but more importantly Senate Bill 76 is about North Carolina becoming a part of the US energy turnaround, its about jobs, its about helping North Carolina families get back to work, and its about restoring our economic prosperity.
I have lived in NC for 33 years and I firmly believe that our state is the greatest state in the union. However, If you go online today to the US Department of Labor - and look up state unemployment rates - you will find a disappointing figure that should cause all of us to be highly concerned and alarmed. Our unemployment rate is 9.2 %, NC ranks #47 in the country, that means 46 states are competing better than we are. We no longer compete among the "best of the best" to win the jobs that will generate opportunities for our citizens.
Let's look at the states that are in the energy business and winning the jobs that we are losing. Look at Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, now-a-days North Dakota and Alaska. Their employment rates averaged together, come in at 5.3%. So the arithmetic is more than clear - 9% is where we are in NC - and 5% is where a collection of states are who have energy jobs.
After a commendable 2012 state study of shale energy issues, active public input and thorough deliberation, North Carolina has set in motion a process that will lead to the creation of high-paying jobs and a better energy future for the state. The oil and natural gas industry supports more than 135,000 jobs in North Carolina and a recent study shows that, with the right policies, more than 40,000 additional jobs can be created throughout the state by 2020.
So, the call to action is beyond clear, let's get the Tar Heel State in the energy game. Families, business owners, and communities all over this great state are counting on their elected officials in Raleigh to lead the charge to rebuild the state's economy, restore jobs, and unleash the potential of our private sector.
President Obama and Congressional leaders announced a deal Tuesday night that will pull the economy back from the much talked about “fiscal cliff”, and across the country there has been great weeping and gnashing of teeth as a result. Compromise rarely satisfies all parties involved, but after reviewing the deal it’s overly clear that only the politicians in Washington were the real winners, and the losers will certainly be taxpayers.
Republicans and Democrats finally agreed to a deal to avert the disastrous fiscal cliff, but the “grand compromise” is mostly centered on raising taxes on high-income families, which the President defines as any individual earning more than $250,000 or married couples taking in more than $300,000.
The newly agreed upon fiscal cliff deal would hike the top income tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent on any individual earning more than $400,000 or couples bringing home more than $450,000. On this point, clearly Obama and his merry band of Democrats are the winners; they have wanted the rich to pay more since the President took control of the White House in 2009.
Undoubtedly, Obama and Congressional Democrats won another round with provisions included in the tax package to limit personal exemptions and deductions for any individual earning more than $250,000 or couples with more than $300,000 in annual income. Taxpayers that fall into this category with special exemptions for children or deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations will notice some drastic changes when they file their tax return in April.
Obama also wanted Congress to demand more revenue when an investor sells an asset for a gain. The capital gains tax rate was lowered to 15 percent when the Bush tax cuts passed. Democrats wanted the rate to go back up to 39.6 percent, which would have been a catastrophe in a weak economy that is starving for capital investment.
In addition, ObamaCare applies a 3.8 percent tax on investment income; most voters simply missed this provision when the bill passed in 2010. The fiscal cliff deal simply raises the capital gains tax rate up to 20 percent for high income families and allows the ObamaCare tax to remain in place for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples earning more than $250,000. House Speaker Boehner and GOP members were the winners here.
The President also proposed the tax paid on investment income rise to 39.6 percent for top income earners. In addition, Obama wanted the higher tax rate to be applied to “carried interest”, which is the income that is often paid to hedge fund and investment managers. Both measures would have generated new revenue for the Treasury, but neither measure found a place in the brokered deal. Perhaps the GOP and investors won this round.
Another point of contentious debate centered on estate taxes or also called the “death tax”, which must be paid whenever a person inherits assets. Under Bush, the death tax was suspended, so no one had to pay into the Treasury when they inherited a valuable estate. Naturally, this frustrated Democrats, because the rich could transfer assets from one generation to the next without paying a fee. Obama proposed a 45 percent death tax on any individual receiving a minimum of $3.5 million in assets from an estate. GOP leaders pushed back and the deal reinstated a 40 percent tax on estates with assets of $5 million or more. Wealthy families won this round.
Special interests were definitely not left out in the cold. The deal also includes a variety of special tax credits for the film industry, green energy companies, NASCAR, railroads, and much more. Chalk up a win for the lobbyists.
The so-called “grand compromise” did nothing to reform the antiquated tax code. No reform to entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – which now gobbles up a combined 60 percent of the federal budget.
No spending reform to reduce the eye popping $1.3 trillion national deficit or bend the curve on the exploding $16 trillion debt. In fact, round two of the fiscal cliff battle is fast approaching; the federal government will reach the debt limit in March and trigger automatic spending cuts that will largely hit the Defense Department. The fiscal cliff deal also fails to outline what needs to be done to contain the ever growing interest on the federal debt, currently around $250 Billion annually, and moving upwards to $400 Billion by 2020.
Not to mention, the payroll tax cut implemented with the passing of the 2009 stimulus bill was not extended, nearly 80 percent of middle-class America will see a tax increase. Households making between $40,000 and $50,000 will face an average tax increase of $579 in 2013, according to the Tax Policy Center's analysis. Households making between $50,000 and $75,000 will ...<< MORE >>
If anyone would like to question which candidate was victorious after last night’s first Presidential Debate, then look no farther than the post-debate commentary on MSNBC. Chris Matthews, host of Hardball on MSNBC and longtime Democrat, was vividly upset with the President’s performance and went on to declare that “Romney was winning” last night. Keep in mind, this assessment is coming from the same guy who openly declared that “Obama sent a shiver up his leg” during the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Ed Schulz, host of The Ed Show on MSNBC and chief liberal cheerleader, was no additional help when he added – “I was absolutely stunned by President Obama’s debate performance.”
Unquestionably, President Obama did not show up in Denver last night, maybe Candidate Obama or even Senator Obama – but whatever he was, it was not very Presidential. Quite frankly, Obama appeared disconnected and unfocused; at times I wondered if he even wanted to be President any longer. On the other hand, Governor Romney spoke with clarity and assertiveness; he did a remarkable job at touching all of America – most specially the middle class.
Just over a week ago, many (including me) started to question if Romney truly had what it takes to win, last night he answered all critics. Undoubtedly, the race is far from over, but Romney has created an opportunity to close the gap and make this a competitive race. Two more debates can trigger a seismic shift in the election, so the race is just heating up, Democrats must be hoping “Cool Hand Obama” starts to heat up too.
The Democratic National Convention will deliver a grand finale tonight in Charlotte, granted to a much smaller audience than originally planned for at Bank of America Stadium, but it still promises to rival some of Hollywood’s greatest American dramas. The entire convention has played out like a movie that you would go see at one of your local theaters. On the first night, mega star Michelle Obama successfully introduced the plot and set the scene, and last night rock star Bill Clinton attempted to make a heartfelt connection with swing voters. I actually heard a delegate say, “I laughed, I cried, it was incredible!”
The final act will feature Mr. Obama on the grand stage making a passionate plea to undecided voters for another four years to restore prosperity. Undoubtedly, he will present a compelling case for why more time is deserved - but in the end, voters will have to make a choice between “being patient” and hiring someone else for the job. The electorate has not given the country three consecutive two-term Presidents since Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe. Mr. Obama is no stranger to miracles, but he will certainly need another one if he wants a chance at keeping the big “chair”.
Obama’s political career is peppered with amazing opportunities and downright miraculous outcomes. For example, let’s take a look at his first win in 1996 to the Illinois Senate; Obama should have faced a veteran politician in the primary – State Senator Alice Palmer. However, Obama campaign volunteer Ron Davis filed objections to the legitimacy of her nominating petition along with several other Democratic challengers. Davis was successful at clearing the field and Obama was able to run unopposed.
Eight years later in 2004, Obama would receive another blessing in disguise when the Republican primary winner Jack Ryan withdrew from the U.S. Senate race and was subsequently replaced by Alan Keyes; Obama would go on to win the seat with an overwhelming majority. After another four years and only a combined 12 years following his first election win, Obama achieved a goal that most felt were impossible, he became the 44th President of the United States and its first African-American to occupy the White House. Undoubtedly, the GOP’s decision to nominate John McCain, an out of touch longtime politician contrasted well with Obama’s youthful persona and inspiring message of “hope and change”.
Countless voters have buyer’s remorse after four years with Mr. Obama at the helm of the largest economies in the world, and rightfully so. The country is trapped in the worst economic environment since World War II. Unemployment is hovering above 8%, annual budget deficits have exceeded $1 trillion during the last four consecutive years, and the national debt just reached an eye popping $16 trillion or 100% of GDP. No elected leader since FDR has been allowed to keep their job in the midst of similar conditions. Can Obama score one final miracle?
The fanfare and jubilee will be at a fever pitch tonight at the DNC. However, I hope voters are not blinded by the flashing lights, talking points, or exceptional oratory skills. Voters should be listening for some key points as Obama presses the case for more time to move our economy “forward”.
Obama should help voters to clearly understand his long-term strategy to repairing the nation’s fiscal situation and rebuilding the U.S. Treasury. I hope Obama carefully considers the 5 million long-term unemployed workers looking for a catalyst that will restart growth and create sustainable jobs – he needs to describe what that catalyst will be. Mr. Obama should speak with authority to voters about his vision for America, the critical need to define the role of government, and make some uncomfortable choices about what public services are most important.
Mr. President, voters understand that you may need more time to solve the nation’s woes, but voters deserve a credible vision, an action plan, and pragmatic leadership.