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Rep. Steen: Financial woes run deep

These are remarks delivered by N.C. Rep. Fred Steen (R-Rowan) at Fridayís legislative breakfast sponsored by the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.
You canít read any news about the upcoming legislative session without part of the story being devoted to the budget shortfall. The best estimate puts the number at $3.8 billion of a nearly $20 billion state budget.
Folks, weíve got a problem, and personally, I think the problem is much deeper than most care to discuss.
Iím a free-market, pro-business Republican. I own and operate a business like many of you here in this room. I believe that if we are going to solve ó I mean really solve ó our budget problem, then we have to empower business, not government, to lead our economic recovery. Government has to get out of the way at the local, state and federal level.
First, the economic base of our state is completely out of balance for our economy. Government sector employment is the largest employment sector in North Carolina. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2009 ó the most recent numbers ó a government employee in North Carolina had an average salary of $44,158, compared to a private sector employee average salary of $39,350.
Now, I understand that public employees pay taxes just like private sector employees. However, it is only private sector employees who are creating new wealth. Government wealth is only created at the expense of those who are creating new wealth. It has a diminishing return, and increasing government spending or debt at this point in time will only create a much bigger problem than the one we have now.
We have to take a hard look at ourselves and realize that the decisions we make today will determine the quality of our tomorrow. For me, I choose the side of providing an economic environment that allows businesses to grow and flourish. Government growth has to be limited to what our private sector economy can support.
Sadly, the burden of our government is now exceeding what we can support, and if we do not alter this balance, then we further jeopardize the creation of new private sector jobs, which by definition means new wealth.
Solving our budget problems ó I mean, being really committed to solving the problems ó means changing the culture of government and politics. We have to realize we are all in this thing together. No one will escape without sacrifice. It means electing leaders who lead, not leaders who dole out public funds and claim to be doing a good job. It means having an honest discussion with the people. It means realizing that making a profit is a good thing, while helping others is part of our social contract with our fellow man.
It means self-responsibility, and it means living within our means. If we canít pay the bill, then we have to learn to live without. To do anything less is to put our quality of tomorrow at risk.
On the national level, it means putting our national security at risk.
Folks, these are tough times, donít let anyone kid you. However, where there is a problem, there is an opportunity.
Now is the time to realize that opportunity and begin the process of restoring sound, sensible solutions to how we govern and how we empower the working spirit of America, businessmen and -women who built the greatest country to ever grace the face of Godís earth.
Thank you.

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