HARDISTER: North Carolina, stronger and more prosperous

After posting a $552 million budget surplus for this fiscal year, North Carolina’s economy is outperforming the national average in job creation, labor-market gains, and economic activity. We have the 23rd largest economy in the world and our gross domestic product is one of the fastest-growing in the country.North Carolina’s recovery from the Great Recession was produced by reforming the tax code, reducing regulations on the private sector and balancing the budget responsibly. Enacting these reforms has drastically improved our state’s economy. Our unemployment rate is half of what it was in 2011, and the private sector has created over 500,000 jobs since our recovery began.By reforming the tax code and reducing tax rates, we have allowed hard-working people to keep more of the money they earn. Reducing taxes on individuals and businesses has resulted in more economic activity and job creation. In fact, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation has improved our national ranking from near the worst (44th) for taxes to the 11th best.The General Assembly has collectively eliminated hundreds of regulations that were hurting the private sector. We have also required all state regulations to be periodically reviewed and justified by the Rules Review Commission. These efforts have made it easier for businesses to grow and create jobs.Sound fiscal policies have also been a benefit to North Carolina’s economic stability. We have repaid over $2.5 billion in debt to the federal government; increased our Rainy Day Fund to $1.5 billion; and balanced our operating budget while investing in the core services of government (public education, public safety, transportation, etc.). We are one of only a few states that has a AAA credit rating from all three agencies, and our debt is among the lowest of all the 50 states.Not only is North Carolina’s economy doing well, our public education system is offering school choice to students in the form of charter school access, scholarships for low-income students, and options for children who have a learning disability. Funding for public education has increased by nearly $2 billion since 2011, and average teacher pay has increased by approximately 13 percent. We are also taking steps to promote job-specific training in high schools, universities and community colleges.Responsible investments in health care, transportation, and public safety have also been beneficial to our citizens. Our Medicaid system is operating more efficiently; transportation funds are being used solely for transportation projects (as they should be); and we have worked to enhance justice and public safety services.All politics aside, it is safe to say that North Carolina is a stronger, more prosperous state than it was a few short years ago. We are quickly becoming one of the best states to live, work and raise a family. As legislators return to Raleigh for the 2017 legislative session, we remain committed to enacting reforms that will strengthen our economy, create jobs and enhance the core services of government.Jon Hardister, a Republican from Greensboro, is majority whip for the North Carolina House of Representatives.