Today Senator Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) was elected by his colleagues as President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate. For the first time since 1870, Republicans will lead both chambers in the North Carolina General Assembly.
Senator Berger said the Senate’s primary objective is to revitalize North Carolina’s economy and foster a business climate where the private sector can create new jobs. He cited closing the state’s $3.7 billion budget deficit as the first step in this process and committed to work with elected leaders from both parties to accomplish this goal.
Below are his opening remarks as prepared:
“Thank you ladies and gentlemen for the warm welcome and for selecting me as President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate. And thank you, Lt. Governor Dalton, for your kind words of introduction. I would also like to recognize my wife, Pat, my children and grandchildren, our Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker, Supreme Court Associate Justice Paul Newby, Court of Appeals Judge Ann Marie Calabria, Superior Court Judge Ola Lewis, my Senate colleagues, Hogan Medlin, and the Junior Army ROTC Color Guard from John Motley Morehead High School in Eden.
“A special thank you to Senator Marc Basnight for the assistance and guidance that he, his Chief of Staff, Amy Fulk, and the rest of his team provided during the transition process. Actions speak volumes and Senator Basnight’s are appreciated more than he will ever know.
“I am humbled and honored to stand before you today. This is a historic moment for this body and our state. But this is just a moment — history will judge us based on the substance of this session — not this moment.
“North Carolina is suffering the effects of a national recession. Policy choices made over the last 20 years deepened the recession in North Carolina. The result is that our principal order of business this session is to eliminate a $3.7 billion budget deficit. This is our primary task if we expect to see private sector job growth resume. Our population is growing but job creation in North Carolina is not keeping pace.
“From 2000 to 2009, North Carolina’s workforce increased by nearly 330,000 workers. Yet during the same time period, our state’s economy added only 13,806 jobs. We must do all in our power to change this trend. That means first and foremost improving North Carolina’s business climate – the costs associated with the set of regulations that must be followed, the fees and taxes that must be paid, and the government red tape that must be cut in order for private business to turn a profit. Because business cannot grow if it cannot profit. And if it cannot grow, it will not add jobs.
“Balancing the state’s budget and reducing government costs to families and business is how we can most effectively create jobs in North Carolina.
“It is time for a different philosophy in state government, one that will return North Carolina to its rightful place as the Southeast’s leader in job creation, education, transportation, and quality of life.
“Just as working families and small businesses have to make difficult decisions and tighten their belts to make ends meet, we, as a state will also have to tighten our belt to put our financial house in order. State government and state employees will have to do more with less as we work to right size state government. It’s not going to be easy, but streamlining state government will pay dividends in the long run.
“Today is a new day for North Carolina with a new vision for our state’s future. We will lead North Carolina on a path of smaller, smarter, more efficient government.
“We will reduce spending, balance our budget, and reform North Carolina’s regulatory environment to make our state a better place to live, work, raise a family, and start and grow a business.
“We will implement common-sense tort and medical malpractice reforms.
“We will lift the cap on charter schools and support our state’s education and job skills training programs to better prepare our students and workforce for today’s economy.
“Senate members of both parties understand the great responsibility the voters have placed on our shoulders by electing us to this body. To date, we are encouraged that Governor Perdue, knowing the magnitude of the challenges that lie ahead and having demonstrated a willingness to work in a bipartisan fashion to address our state’s problems, will continue to be our partner as we take steps to move North Carolina forward. We must work together to bring about real, positive, and lasting change.
“We, Republicans and Democrats, all know our constituents expect us to provide common sense solutions to address the fiscal and other problems we face. Today we see the hallmarks of all new beginnings — optimism, expectation of opportunity, and confidence for a better quality of life for all North Carolinians.
“We are excited and energized at what the future will bring and stand ready to address the challenges at hand. To the people of this great state, we thank you for your support and for the opportunity to serve.”