Lincoln County state Rep. Jason Saine has been appointed to chair the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council in 2018.
“I was already serving on the executive committee board for ALEC and I was kind of in the line to move ahead to the chairmanship, although we thought it would be in 2019 instead of 2018,” Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, said. “In 2011, when I first got appointed (to the state legislature), I went to my first ALEC meeting in Washington, D.C. and I really enjoyed it. As it happened, our state chairman at the time ran for Congress and wasn’t eligible to continue as the state chairman for North Carolina. The delegation then asked if I’d be interested, particularly because of my friendship with (President Ronald) Reagan’s economist Dr. Art Laffer, who was a family friend of my wife’s and the man who helped start ALEC almost 45 years ago.”
ALEC is America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism, according to the group’s website.
“ALEC is a wonderful exchange of ideas between legislators,” Saine said. “You learn what works in one state and you can apply it to another, or you also learn what didn’t work in other states. For example, when Kansas did their tax reform they didn’t cut their spending, and I think North Carolina has learned from that so we have a much better tax package because of their mistakes. ALEC is really all about the exchange of good ideas and learning what works in one state may not work in another state, but you certainly can bounce those ideas off of each other and learn from them.”
Saine, who chairs the House Finance Committee in the North Carolina General Assembly, has played a key role in reforming the state’s tax package since joining the legislature in 2011. He was named the state’s most business-friendly legislator by the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation last month and honored as the Regional Legislator of the Year by the Charlotte Chamber earlier this year.
“This opportunity will allow North Carolina to have an even greater focus on what we’ve already been doing successfully, which is tax reform and Medicaid reform,” Saine said. “There’s a reason why businesses are flocking to North Carolina. Economic development is something that has been very important to me and the opportunity to chair ALEC will allow me to interact more with people of influence across the United States and really across the globe. I will certainly be one of the chief cheerleaders for our state and I hope to bring more business to our area.”
ALEC has been scrutinized by outlets such as The New York Times for giving corporate interests too much influence. The organization’s tax status as a nonprofit has also been called into question following allegations of lobbying activity.
“The criticisms come from the far left,” Saine said. “The organization functions much like the National Council of State Legislators, which I am also a part of. You see a lot of the same faces at NCSL as you do at ALEC. It’s simply an organization that allows people to work and grow professionally. The policies that we make do impact businesses across the country, so I think it’s important to have those folks at the table so that we craft policy that works for everyone. If we’re creating good policy that stands the test of time, recruits business and allows our economy to grow, I don’t see how you can argue with that. Criticisms will come and go and the organization has learned from its past mistakes and will continue to do so and move forward.”
Saine will serve a one-year term as chairman of ALEC, which will begin on Jan. 1.