WATCH: Candidates for NC House & Senate from New Hanover County
Candidates for NC House & Senate seats took part in a candidates' forum hosted by WECT and the League of Women Voters
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – An evening with the candidates turned testy Tuesday night, during a series of forums at the Senior Resource Center in New Hanover County. WECT worked with the League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear to bring candidates together who are running for seats in the state House and Senate.
The final forum featured state Sen. Thom Goolsby and his challenger for the District 9 seat, attorney Deb Butler. From the outset Butler challenged Goolsby's statements, repeatedly bringing up a tax credit for small business that Goolsby supported in Raleigh. It gives business owners $3500 back on the first $50,000 they earn. Butler called it a loophole benefiting millionaires, and the money would be better spent on education.
"You had an opportunity to cap it (the credit) and limit it to just small businesses; firemen, teachers, police officers," Butler said to Goolsby during the exchange. "But no! You had to extend it to lobbyists, to yourself presumably, and to other people making extraordinarily high incomes. That's unconscionable, and I don't know how you defend it."
"The non-partisan Fiscal Research Division of the North Carolina General Assembly has told us that tax credit will go to maybe two percent of people who are millionaires," Goolsby said about the contention. "The large majority goes to small business owners who are making less than $100,000. If it works for the film industry, Miss Butler, how does it not work for small businesses, and why do you hate them so much?"
In earlier forums, District 20 candidate Rick Catlin seemed to be alone out of the eight candidates when it comes to supporting the tax credit incentive offered to productions that film in North Carolina.
"I have trouble with incentives for individual businesses," Catlin said to begin third forum of the evening. "I support incentives that are available to any business, like the port enhancement zone or foreign trade zone. To pick out one industry and do that is not fair to the other small businesses that are out there struggling trying to grow. Now, I know we've put ourselves in a position where the consequences of not doing that in North Carolina would be severe, and I don't know if I would fall on my sword for that, but I don't support that activity."
Catlin's opponent, Tom Gale, agreed that is frustrating to have to give money to attract business, he said that incentives for the film industry are successful. "This year we are on track to do about $200 million direct investment in the Wilmington region. I think that is a return on investment. The taxpayers invested a little bit, and they will get a lot back. It is also a clean industry, and it does not even take in the tourism that comes in as a result, and the other benefits to the community."
Both candidates in the District 18 forum, incumbent Rep. Susi Hamilton and her challenger, Louis Harmati, voiced support for the film incentives issue. Hamilton mentioned several pieces of legislation she supported during her first term in Raleigh, and criticized the Republican majority for cuts made to education. "The recession has created some very difficult for the state budget, and one of the largest things we fund is public education," Hamilton said during the forum. "So the biggest hit was felt in public education."
Harmati raised his concerns about the conditions of roads and highways in North Carolina. When asked whether toll roads would be favored as a way to pay for the needed repairs and upgrades, Harmati promised to look at the option if elected. He also said a closer look needs to go to the Highway Trust Fund, and how the monies are appropriated for projects across the state.
Ted Davis and Emilie Swearingen took the stage in the forum for the District 19 seat. Davis recently replaced Danny McComas in that position in the NC House, when McComas resigned to head up the NC Ports Authority. One of the biggest differences between Davis and Swearingen was raised during a question about voter identification.
"It is against our human rights," Swearingen said, before speaking about an elderly woman who recently lived next door to her in Kure Beach. "She had no way to get an ID. She would have to go through all kinds of red tape and government intervention to get an ID. A lot of our elders may not even know how to do that."
Davis strongly disagreed. "I think if a person is going to vote, they should be able to produce a valid ID that shows they are a citizen of this country and a resident of this country."
WECT and the League of Women Voters will bring school board candidates together for a similar forum in New Hanover County on October 9th.
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