Barnhart faces challenger for N.C. House 82nd District

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Joanie Morris
Kannapolis Citizen
CONCORD ó Larry Pittman, a Concord resident with no political experience, will challenge incumbent Jeff Barnhart in the Republican primary for the N.C. House 82nd District this Tuesday.
Pittman said it is time for change in the House, and he feels he is the best candidate to offer that change. Barnhart said he still has work to do and hopes to get the chance to do it.
Both candidates believe that managing growth is a job for local government rather than the state. Barnhart said key principles to controlling growth include upholding property rights, fostering regional cooperation, balancing industrial, residential and commercial interests and considering the environment, history and quality of life.
Pittman also wants to retain local control.
But the candidates clearly differ on financial incentives for businesses thinking of moving here.
Pittman would stop them them. He says state and local governments should pay companies to bring more people from outside the local community into already crowded neighborhoods, roads and schools.
“Job development needs to be focused on creating jobs for the citizens we already have,” Pittman said, something the state can help with.
But Barnhart notes that the state is switching rapidly from manufacturing-based economy to one based on service. To grow well-paying jobs in the area, Barnhart said state-sponsored incentives is the way to go.
“I support working with business ó existing as well as new ó in creating new opportunities for our people to make a decent living to raise their families,” Barnhart said. “I support incentives that make sense and make a return to the state and the citizens.”
He does not support “some of the ‘pure give-aways’ that have also happened in the state,” though he didn’t cite any particular examples.
Pittman calls incentives “corporate welfare.”
“The average citizen is already struggling to make ends meet,” he said. “They should not be further burdened through higher taxes to pay for corporate welfare, especially for wealthy businessmen who really don’t need it.”
Pittman says small, local businesses would benefit by lowering all tax rates instead.
“Lower tax rates actually produce higher revenue because they allow for greater general prosperity,” he said, citing former presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and John F. Kennedy as examples.
“It is way overdue for Raleigh to learn the same lesson.”
When asked about his support for the North Carolina Research Campus, Pittman said he believes a general rule should apply.
“I think the main thing is for the state to avoid the temptation to over-regulate business in general,” Pittman said. “The same applies to the N.C. Research Campus.”
Barnhart said the N.C. Research Campus is a great example of how “we can bring new and better jobs to our citizens.”
“In the shadows of the desperation that fell upon us with the closing of Pillowtex, our delegation worked extremely hard to support the N.C. Research Campus and secure the funding in the state budget for our universities and community college system to partner with the N.C. Research Campus in this incredible project,” said Barnhart. “We need to continue forging new partnerships throughout our region, and across the state, to leverage this project.”
Both candidates lament the general condition of roads.
Pittman wants the legislature to stop diverting money from the Highway Trust Fund to budget.
“We also need to remove law enforcement from the (N.C. Department of Transportation) and let DOT stick to dealing with roads and bridges,” Pittman said. “Furthermore, I would favor prioritizing funding for road and bridge construction and repairs according to traffic levels and fixing what is in the worst shape first.”
Pittman cited recent reports that Cabarrus County bridges are among the worst in the state.
“Raleigh needs to be told loud and clear that it is unacceptable for them to allow our citizens and visitors to our area to continue to be endangered by their failure to address this urgent need,” Pittman added. “If we can get the state to prioritize according to traffic levels and conditions needing repair, the needs of Cabarrus County would logically be at or near the head of the list.”
Barnhart said more than $30 million has been coming to Cabarrus County each year.
“Unfortunately, since we have three major highways, most of our allocation has gone to projects on those highways, such as the widening of N.C. 49 and the resurfacing of U.S. 29,” he said. “This leaves little money to address the traffic and maintenance issues of our county. …
“The funding formula has to be altered to allocate funds to address true traffic volume and maintenance issues without using a county’s allocation to fund highways that serve the whole state,” he said. “We also need to dismantle the N.C. Department of Transportation and start over.”
Barnhart said he has served the community for the past 18 years, 10 as a county commissioner and eight in the N.C. House.
“We have … achieved many things together,” he said. “I hope you will give me the opportunity to do so again.”
Pittman sees the need to “reassert the principle that our elected officials are servants and employees of the people, not our masters.”
“I am running for this office because the people matter,” he said.
Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or