N.C. House candidates want to bring about change
By Hugh Fisher
In an election where the byword is “change,” both candidates for the 82nd District N.C. House seat promised to deliver a fresh approach.
Concord businessman Wayne Troutman, the Democratic challenger, said the nationwide desire for change includes local citizens.
“A lot of people have said they’re not pleased with the things happening in Cabarrus County,” said Troutman, who manages Troutman Motors and Troutman Insurance in Concord.
Speaking of his opponent, Republican incumbent Jeff Barnhart, Troutman didn’t mince words.
“I feel like he no longer represents the people of Cabarrus County,” he said. “He represents the government. … I would be a representative for the people and not for the local government.”
But Barnhart said his party has been working in a minority position during his four terms in office.
“His (Troutman’s) party is in control, and he’ll toe the line,” Barnhart said. “And we’ll have more economic problems and more tax problems. And when he gets called into the Democratic speaker’s office and told what to do, he will fall in line like the rest of them have.”
Both men point to their experience. Barnhart says his eight years in office have allowed him to form important relationships with state and local leaders.
He points to his work in the wake of the Pillowtex closing as an example of that cooperation.
“We did so with the Research Campus and the way we created a public-private venture that turned around what could have been a very disastrous situation with the closing of Pillowtex,” Barnhart said.
Troutman has held a number of appointed positions, including a seat on the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College board of trustees, membership in the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce and a seat on the Blue Ribbon Commission to Study Urban Transportation Needs, among others.
He said his experience in education gives him a particular advantage in dealing with the needs of the people.
“Under the current economic system, we are going to have a whole lot more people out of work,” Troutman said. “We are going to have to deal with how to retrain them and put them back into the workforce. …
“That is an area where I feel like my experience has been a real benefit.”
At the same time, Troutman said he opposed measures that would give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
“Even once you train them, it is against the law to hire them,” Troutman said. “So why would you spend taxpayers’ money to give them in-state tuition?”
Barnhart said the state’s kindergarten to 12th grade educators need support to help them deal with federal mandates.
“We need to give them the tools they need and then get out of their way, and we need to pay them for performance,” Barnhart said. “I can’t tell you how many teachers have told me they spend more time teaching to the test than actually teaching to the children’s needs.”
Barnhart also said he would work to make changes in the state budget system.
“We have got to better prioritize our spending in Raleigh, which I have been trying to do,” he said.
Barnhart noted his work to promote a “program-based budget” ó a system where money for programs would be tied to requirements for meeting operational goals.
The current “continuing budget” system, he said, tends to add to the previous year’s amounts.
“Nobody ever goes back and justifies that previous spending,” he said.
Troutman also criticized spending, but focused on decisions made at a local level.
He criticized the $80 million package of incentives given to Lowe’s Motor Speedway owner Bruton Smith as an example of the need for government oversight.
“It was a real knee-jerk reaction that they (Concord and Cabarrus County leaders) took,” said Troutman. “Any taxpayer money should require bids and everything should go to the lowest bidder.”
Troutman also criticized recent annexation decisions, including Kannapolis’ ability to annex property outside the city while not yet annexing the adjacent Fishertown community.
“It’s not right,” Troutman said.
If re-elected, Barnhart said he would continue working to make fiscal changes in Raleigh.
“Obviously, one of the most important things is the economy, there’s no question,” Barnhart said. “What government has to do is work to create the best environment for business and to help create jobs and stability.”