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83rd District N.C. House candidates explain how to cure economy

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
Both candidates for the 83rd District N.C. House seat say they know how to cure the ailing economy.
Republican Rep. Linda Johnson of Kannapolis, seeking her fifth term in office, said she will continue to promote the North Carolina Research Campus in order to bolster the workforce and the economy.
“The Research Campus will bring in biotech manufacturing jobs,” Johnson said.
But she also stressed the state’s transition to “an information-based economy.”
Formerly a member of the Kannapolis Board of Education, she described herself as a self-employed computer software analyst.
Her Democratic challenger, Barry Richards of Concord, hopes to work with business leaders and expand North Carolina’s work force.
“I would enhance education opportunities for everyone by working with the community college system and our university systems,” Richards said.
“I would also tap into what I see as the emerging economic growth market in energy development wherever possible,” he said. “A strong economic climate improves educational choices and vice versa.”
Johnson, who was vice chairman of the education committee this term, said she wants to strengthen core courses and give teachers more professional development support, as well as new technology and equipment.
“You want them to have the computers and the technology needed to teach the 21st century curriculum,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she would better the tax situation by pushing for reform and streamlining the tax process.
“An example of that would be the transfer to the general fund from the highway fund,” Johnson said. That process, she said, is being phased out.
Johnson also wants to see a reworking of the formulas used to determine funding for education.
Richards said he thinks corporate taxes should be reduced while income taxes remain stable.
“Public dependency of taxpayer dollars should be diminished and corporate welfare needs to be reined in,” Richards said.
Richards said he is the best candidate for the job because he feels he best represents local people’s interests.
“Cabarrus County needs Democratic representation in Raleigh or we will continue to send more money to Raleigh and receive less back, which has been the case for many years,” Richards said.
He points to his years as a business owner and his work in the Cabarrus County school system. Richards has worked in the insurance and banking industries.
He has held several local positions, most recently serving as town manager of Mount Gilead in 2006.
“My faith and family mean the most to me and I want to keep traditional values a mainstream of North Carolina,” Richards said.
State-level experience is Johnson’s primary strength, she said.
Among her achievements are her work to help further the public-private partnerships to develop the North Carolina Research Campus.
“Another thing I am proud of is bringing more teachers to the classroom,” Johnson said.
She said she worked to reduce the number of requirements teachers licensed in other states had to complete to be able to teach in North Carolina.
Johnson said her top priority in a new term would be to reduce the state’s unemployment rate.
“And next, of course, would be education, then transportation,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to do something about these roads or we can’t do anything about economic issues.”

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