N.C. House candidates share views on issues facing district, state

Published 2:56 pm Tuesday, October 28, 2008

David GuiceTom ThomasPlease share a little about your background, why you are running and why you think you are best suited to represent N.C. House District 113.

David Guice (R): I have spent the better part of my adult life working for my community as an employee of the N.C. Department of Corrections, owning and operating a business for 20 years and serving the citizens of Transylvania County as a county commissioner. As a private business owner I understand the frustrations that small business owners often face as they provide both jobs and services to the local economy. I have also experienced great satisfaction in successfully starting and running a business. My promise to you is to help find new ways at the state level to ensure that our local business owners are successful.

As a leader in state government, I have forged strong relationships with many individuals and organizations. Working for the N.C. Department of Corrections for 30 years, 24 which have been in management positions, I understand state government and how to lead employees and manage organizations. As a county commissioner, I know how to prioritize and balance budgets.

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I firmly believe in the concept of individual accountability. I have applied that philosophy in leadership roles and will strive to move solutions away from government and toward individuals while serving you in Raleigh. For example, while chairman of the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners; I supervised an innovative public/private funding plan to construct the new public library. Through this plan a 35,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility was built with taxpayers contributing less than 45 percent of the total cost.

As a volunteer, I understand the challenges that our communities often face as individuals and organizations work to help fill unmet needs. This year, as chairman of SAFE, a local organization for victims of domestic violence, I have been proud to lead a $1.2 million fundraising drive to purchase and renovate a safe house for battered spouses and their families. Tom Thomas (D): I have a wonderful wife, Brenda, and one son, David. Brenda retired after 35 years in education from Brevard High; and David, after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill, is pursuing his doctorate in organic chemistry from the Univ. of Utah.

I have been smart enough to surround myself with great people; therefore, I served very successfully for 35 years as a teacher and principal in Transylvania County. I was honored as Principal of the Year for North Carolina in 1998-99. I retired from education in July of 2007. Along with my professional career, my broad community service has afforded me an opportunity to be aware of a wide range of community issues. Some of the organizations I served in the past include: emergency management coordinator and American Red Cross chairman for Transylvania County, board member of Western North Carolina Tomorrow, and scout director of the Ecusta District. At the state level, I was a member of the state superintendent&squo;s educational advisor team and served for three years as president of the North Carolina Association of Principals and Administrators, as well as 20 years as director of NCAE District One. I am a current member on the Gorges State Park Advisory Board and the State Credit Union Advisory Board.

I have the time, communication skills, administrative background, along with the mountain values that will allow me to foster community involvement and successfully address our district&39;s needs in Raleigh. Since the first day 37+ years ago we arrived in WNC, we have been treated like extended family, and I want to give back to Western North Carolina for all it has given to my family and me. If elected, what would be your top goals while in office and how would you achieve those goals?

David Guice (R): I believe there are many important issues facing North Carolina. We have a dropout rate that is too high, corporate and personal taxes that are too high, teacher pay that is too low, too much control in Raleigh and not enough control locally, a failing mental health system and a culture of corruption in our state government that forgets the needs of the people. We must work hard each day to ensure that every citizen in North Carolina receives the help they need to find success from birth throughout their entire life.

If elected, my top goals will be to strengthen our educational system, work to create a significant and long term economic development plan, lower taxes, and reduce government inefficiencies and work to end the corruption that grips our state government.

I believe the first step is to place partisan politics aside and work together, across the aisle, to accomplish common goals for the people of North Carolina. It is time to put the people of North Carolina as our first goal, and that is what I will do as your elected official in the North Carolina House of Representatives. We must build coalitions to create solutions to the common problems we face all across this state.

I look forward to working with my colleagues in the North Carolina House of Representatives and the North Carolina Senate to address these serious issues. Most importantly, I look forward to working with local elected officials, citizen leaders and people throughout the district to identify critical needs and then address these critical needs in a fiscally responsible and timely manner.&bsp; Tom Thomas (D): I believe that legislators are selected by the people, deriving their just powers from the consent of their constituents.

I have taken my goals from what I have learned from being out in our communities and what I have heard from the people of our district.

&ull; Support, upgrade, and protect our excellent education systems.

&ull; Work for increased job opportunities that pay a living wage.

&ull; Ensure quality mental and physical health care that is driven by affordable health insurance.

&ull; Address appropriate county growth, focusing on environmental and infrastructure concerns and issues that must be in place.

&ull; Continue to support quality law enforcement, fire and rescue protection, and services for our communities

I will work with the WNC leadership team to ensure that our district does not see a rise in taxes but receives a fair share of the state financial resources and job enhancement grants and incentives. I will support education and educators. I will put in whatever time it takes to get our state mental health system back up and running, along with getting health care insurance to an affordable level. I will continue to develop a communication system that actively reaches out to the people of our district, listening and seeking out their opinions, ideas, concerns, and needs. In short, I will work with and do whatever it takes to bring these priorities to reality for the people of District 113 because it is the right thing to do. I am an educator, not a politician, and I will not give up or go away when I know it&squo;s the right thing to do. Do you believe North Carolina municipalities should continue to have the authority for involuntary annexations?

David Guice (R): I am strongly opposed to involuntary/forced annexation and I support the repeal of the 1959 Forced Annexation law. It is my belief that it is fundamentally wrong to force action on a group of people without a true and fair vote on the issue. Involuntary/forced annexation does not permit a straight up or down vote from the people impacted by the potential annexation. Involuntary annexation is solely used as a tool to increase tax revenue and this clear and present danger to personal property rights must end. Tom Thomas (D): I believe governments should ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common protection, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty for their constituents; therefore, I am opposed to forced annexation. If Polk County voters pass a land transfer tax referendum on Nov. 4 and county commissioners request that the tax revenue be permanently dedicated to farmland preservation, would you support a bill to do that?

David Guice (R): Yes. If the Polk County voters pass a land transfer tax and the County Commissioners request the tax revenue be permanently dedicated to farmland preservation I will support that bill. I think it is important for elected state representatives to work together with officials and citizens on the local level. It is only by working together that we can truly make North Carolina great. Tom Thomas (D): Yes, and I must say, I am excited and proud of the stand that Polk County is focused on when it comes to the preservation of farm land. I can only hope that all of NC can embrace this vision before it&squo;s too late. What specific measures do you propose to improve educational opportunities both at the Pre-K through 12 level and at the community college level?

David Guice (R): North Carolina&squo;s public school system is in need of fundamental reform. The state&squo;s one size fits all approach to education is failing both our brightest and most needy students. It is important to be very clear on this point; the system is failing our students ‐ not our teachers. The facts speak for themselves:

&ull; One third of our elementary and middle school students perform below grade level expectations in such basic subjects as math and reading. More than half perform below national standards.

&ull; Nearly one-third of high school students (33,000) each year do not graduate. Among economically disadvantaged students, two of every five students do not graduate.

&ull; The state is under court order (Leandro v. State) to address problems at 20 chronically underperforming schools or find new schools for those students.


I will work tirelessly in Raleigh to accomplish these key points on education:

&ull; Reduce the dropout rate and prepare graduates for a lifetime of success by taking the emphasis off of taking a test and returning the emphasis to the individual student

&ull; Raise expectations and help students, teachers and principals excel

&ull; Restore schools to communities and give parents more input

&ull; Reinvent schools to meet 21st century challenges

We must again recognize the balance between a strong educational system and a strong economy. This includes not only a strong public school system, but also strong community college and university systems. Community colleges help prepare our students for the workforce; allowing North Carolina to have a strong, well educated and prepared pool of employees. I will work tirelessly to support the efforts of the North Carolina Community College System.&bsp; Tom Thomas (D): I would request to be put on the education committee and then, after making sure that the safety, health and well-being of all students is being addressed at an appropriate level, I would focus and work toward the following:

I would focus on student learning and success by bringing regional representatives from state colleges, technology schools, and high schools together to demonstrate to students the needs, resources, and benefits from continuing education in whatever profession a student wishes to pursue. I would support higher pay for all educators. I would work to reduce the amount of testing, and I would move the state ABC&squo;s testing to a diagnostic student-focused test to allow students to see their strengths and weakness, and instruction and curriculum could be changed to meet the students&squo; needs. I would make it a point to keep elementary and middle school teacher-student ratios low and work on getting the state to realize that a teacher at the high school level should not have more than 15-20 students per class. Having large classes helps to drive up the drop-out rate of students and teachers, as well as facilitates the lack of time and student contact for quality instruction and world class standards. I would encourage all elementary schools that are not having PE five days a week to do so, as well as adding foreign language back into the elementary curriculum.&bsp; Clearly, I would support the addition of educators to manage the new curriculum areas and support nurses in school to address the growing health needs of students. These are but a few of the areas I would not hesitate to focus whatever time and energy it takes to give education at all levels the tools it needs for student success. What is your view of the state&squo;s current budget situation? What do you think should be the state&squo;s top spending priorities?

David Guice (R): I believe that spending is out of control. Too many people have sat on the sidelines as uncontrolled and irresponsible spending sweep through North Carolina.

It is my belief that we have to change the culture of how we do business in Raleigh. Elected officials should be held accountable for the way tax dollars are spent. It is my strong feeling that government officials have become too out of touch with mainstream North Carolina, they are no longer accessible and many are simply corrupt. Backdoor deals and closed session budget hearings must end in Raleigh if we are ever to truly become the &dquo;land where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great.&dquo;

North Carolina&squo;s spending and taxation polices have hampered economic growth, hurt working families and handicapped job creation. Here are the facts:

&ull; State spending has increased 42 percent since 2001.

&ull; North Carolina&squo;s debt for Fiscal Year 2007 ‐ 2008 is $857 million. When added to the outstanding debts North Carolina has our debt is over $13 billion.

&ull; North Carolina pays the second highest gas tax of any state in the Southeast, except Florida.

&ull; North Carolina is rated the 40th worst state for business tax climate.

Government throughout North Carolina must become more efficient and transparent. This transparency applies to the way we conduct public meetings, how we balance the budget and how we create debt for future generations. In addition, we must work as stewards of the taxpayer&squo;s dollars to implement a true zero-based budgeting system.

As elected officials we work for the people and we are accountable to all people in every corner of our great state. Tom Thomas (D): North Carolina is in better shape than so many other states, but its budget situation is still poor, at best. I would first look into the question that I am hearing all over our district: &dquo;Why is WNC not getting its fair share of the state resources and finances?&dquo; I do know that the state is in the red when it comes to state health insurance, fuel for school buses, salaries for state employees, and I also know that the state sales tax will be way down because of all the economic disasters in management at the federal level, as well as food and fuel cost. I have to be honest; I don&squo;t have a magic solution to this question. But, I will also tell you if every department in the state has not been cut back 2% by the time I am elected to the house seat, I will work with the WNC leadership team to make that happen. That being said, I would keep education and health care as my top two priorities. Would you help find funding for Polk County to widen the Hwy.108 bridge over I-26 and/or reconfigure the intersection of I-26 and US 74, a project that is currently on the state&squo;s Transportation Improvement Plan, but is not funded?

David Guice (R): Yes. If this project has already been identified as a need I will work with local officials, local administrators and leaders with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to follow through on this project. This is a perfect example of how state and local officials and citizen leaders can work together to resolve an issue.

First, I will get to the bottom of why this issue has been identified as a project and not received any funding. Second, I will work tirelessly with Polk County leaders and leaders in Raleigh to ensure this issue remains at the forefront of Western North Carolina projects and that in a timely manner funds are secured for this project. Tom Thomas (D): I would like to tell you yes, and this is what I am going to do to make it happen. But based on what I know about the state&squo;s economics, funding for DOT, as well as the reductions caused by the increased cost of fuel, I can&squo;t do that. Here is what I have learned: That intersection is poor at best and leads to confusion for the folks trying to get from 74 to Interstate 26. I have been told there have been no major accidents related to that intersection, even though it is confusing and could cause congestion at the circular exit at Columbus. It is in the Seven-Year Transportation Improvement plan and is unfunded. There is a projected cost to reconfigure the intersection which is $20 million. Based on the economic crisis the state is facing, I would focus on finishing projects that have been started and then focus on maintaining and upgrading the roads we have in our district. What specific measures do you propose to create more economic opportunities in the state and the district?

David Guice (R): I believe that it is important to have as many options on the table available to attract businesses to North Carolina; however, I do not support the current system of tax incentives to attract businesses to our state. Currently, too many hard earned, tax dollars are being spent irresponsibly to bring business and industry to North Carolina.

First, we must create the infrastructure statewide to support job growth and recruitment. Second, we must have the best and most well trained workforce in the nation. Finally, we must lower taxes to encourage business growth within North Carolina and business relocation to North Carolina.

We must create a strong and lasting transportation system, lower income and corporate taxes, support small businesses throughout North Carolina and strengthen our public education system to support students as they become the workforce of tomorrow. We must continue to create economic policies that will keep North Carolina competitive in an ever growing global economy. Tom Thomas (D): I will do everything in my power to get the people that are specialists in planning for economic growth together with the leaders in the fields of medicine, education, agriculture, small and large businesses, county commissioners, city planners, legislators, and organizations such as Advantage West and Land-of-Sky Regional Council to focus on and find answers that address the overall goals and needs of the people. I will use the resources of the NC House 113 position and the support of the WNC leadership team to facilitate getting the right people together to find the answers that will support economic growth and opportunities in our district. I had the pleasure of being on the board and working with Western North Carolina Tomorrow for years, and that group was a driving force because of their combined skill, expertise, and understanding of WNC. The group and team work I am suggesting is much like what Western North Carolina Tomorrow was set up to do and was very successful at accomplishing.&bsp;