State and national legislators gathered Tuesday at the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Legislative Luncheon,” offering local business and community leaders the opportunity to discuss current issues affecting the region.
Those in attendance included Rep. Patrick McHenry (R, NC-10) and state Rep. Jason Saine (R, District 97). State Sen. David Curtis (R, District 44) was unable able to attend this year’s event, which took place at Homestead’s Grill and Taphouse in Lincolnton. Organized by the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee, the luncheon is designed to allow legislators the opportunity to update Chamber members on current political activity.
During his speech, Saine reflected on his first term in office and spoke about several of this year’s budget highlights, with the recent raise to teacher pay being the most prominent. According to Saine, current teachers will receive a 7.7-percent raise
“The biggest one is teacher pay raises,” Saine said. “Teachers have waited a very long time, with a very slight raise in 2012…we were able to give a 5.5-percent raise along with additional money that raised pay to a 7.7-percent pay raise. We also brought the beginning teacher pay up to a level that’s much more competitive with other states…we’ve gone almost from the very bottom to, with the new pay increase, 32nd across the United States. It’s good — it’s better than it was. It’s not the best, but it keeps us moving forward, which is very important.”
McHenry used his time to discuss his views on how public policy should be shaped, keeping in mind the importance of what he deemed the “median family.”
“I think that the rhetoric we’ve heard out of Washington speaks to two things,” he said. “We hear people say ‘I care about small business.’ But, most of us here don’t own the business we work for. So, are they speaking to us? Well, they’re attempting to speak to us, but they’re missing the point.
“The rhetoric that Washington uses is missing the point where America splits, and the inequality discussion misses the point,” McHenry said. “They’re not seeking the people that are my neighbors and your neighbors…I want to tell you what frames my reference point for public policy — the median family in this country. Half of the people make less than the family’s amount, and half of the people make more than them. Right in the middle. That family in the middle has been left behind by the prosperity and economic growth of the last 25 years. So, when I think of public policy, I try to think of how it affects that family.”
McHenry discussed how current public policy impacts issues such as energy use and higher education that are not always partisan issues.
“People live day to day, week to week, paycheck to paycheck, not from presidential election to presidential election,” McHenry said. “We’re the same America we were 20, 50, 100 years ago. Our system of government is still sound, though we’re frustrated with it…but we can make a change and make an impact if we work together…I wanted to give you all an idea of how I try to do public policy. Not through the rhetoric of Washington, but through the results we need in our community.”
During a brief question-and-answer session, topics ranged from teacher pay raises to the current actions by Republican legislators to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with Saine providing the majority of the responses.