By Pete Zamplas
Hendersonville – State Sen. Chuck Edwards of Hendersonville proudly points to achievements he and Republican colleagues have made in recent months in such areas as jobs and the economy, the budget, and pandemic financial relief.
The General Assembly passed $1.5 billion last week, to use the remaining CARES Act federal funding. House Bill 1105 — the Coronavirus Relief Act 3.0 — sailed through both chambers (44-5 and 104-10) and was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday.
Sen. Edwards said this was despite “political posturing from Democratic lawmakers over a lack of Medicaid expansion.” That is among issues statewide in this campaign.
He said Relief 3.0 funded “immediate COVID-19 related needs — with an emphasis on addressing unemployment benefits ($200 million; $50 weekly state bonus per recipient), education needs ($115 million), expanding broadband access ($30 million), and child care support ($8 million).”
Edwards and his challenger Brian Caskey were part of the Brevard Chamber’s virtual candidate forum Sept. 10. NC Senate District 48 that Edwards represents consists of Henderson and Transylvania counties, and southern Buncombe. He is in his second full term. He chairs five committees, including Commerce.
“Working families and small businesses come first,” Edwards said in closing comments of the Brevard forum. “That means building our economy, reducing regulations, reducing taxes, holding government spending accountable, and keeping our communities safe.”
NC Senate Leader Phil Berger has praised Edwards’ “tireless work ethic, sharp business sense and drive to tackle tough policy challenges.”
Edwards, 59, is a self-made business success. He and his wife Teresa own seven McDonalds restaurants total — in Hendersonville, Brevard and Canton. He said he “built a business, and learned how to work hard and get things done” — in business, now in Raleigh.
“Chuck Edwards is an embodiment of how hard work and perseverance pays off,” Sen. Berger stated. “He started working at McDonald’s while in high school, learned the business from the ground up, and went on to open several of his own franchises.”
“The biggest concern I hear from people daily is how slowly the governor is reopening the state,” Edwards told The Tribune, while at Pres. Trump’s recent rally in Mills River. He also mentioned that issue above others in the Brevard forum.
“It’s time to begin to reopen the state safely,” he said. “We have families out there, that want to get back to work — that need to earn a living. We have small businesses that are suffering, and are questioning whether or not they’re going to be able to hang on a few more weeks.”
He said “There are ways that we can reopen the state. Businesses have come up with plans — I’m talking about bars and restaurants that need to expand capacity and theaters.” He said this is the only state to still disallow the general public into theaters. He said the NFL’s Carolina Panthers asked to allow merely 12,000 fans to home games, but were rebuffed.
He said the NC Senate passed eight bills outlining methods and limits for such businesses reopening, but no Democrat voted with them. “We need to get out of the blame mode” and partisan politics.
Another huge issue is to “balance the budget, without having to raise taxes on anyone,” Edwards said. “We’ve seen what higher taxes can do to businesses. We saw that back in 2009-11, when the state effectively was bankrupt.” Democrats opted to “raise taxes — on the backs of working families and small businesses.”
Since then GOP-led legislators have “lowered taxes for individuals, for working families — particularly for the lower income folks. We’ve raised the (household) standard deduction, from $17,500 to over $21,500,” Edwards said.
He is proud the state ranks fifth out of 50 states for economic outlook, in the American Legislative Exchange Council for State Fiscal Reform’s latest Rich States, Poor States competitive index. N.C. ranked best for having no death tax, and in the top six for tax reform and corporate tax rate.
For workforce development to attract industries, “we funded the Future N.C. collaborative of businesses, colleges and community colleges” to figure how to meet “next-generation” skill needs.
He helped fund $79 million over three years to expand broadband Internet, career coaches for high schoolers, community colleges, and the NC Promise of $500 tuition per semester. He backed the Testing Reduction Act, also consecutive pay raises for teachers that “got caught up in politics, in the (vetoing) governor’s office in the last budget.”
Health care is a major Democrat issue. “I’m against Medicaid expansion for a plethora of reasons. Many are human costs,” he said. He said overall “I have worked diligently…to expand health care.” He points to the bipartisan SB 86 Small Business Health Care Act. It enables business chamber members to join forces, for better rates for their workers. He backs exclusive provider organizations (EPOs) with cheaper rates for care from in-network providers, and for requiring more detailed and revealing medical billing.
The GOP revamped the state Transportation board in HB77, which bailed out the agency but secured greater “efficiency and accountability,” Edwards explained. “The governor’s administration had miserably managed the funding of DOT. They spent $743 million beyond their (DOT) budget.”
He backs GOP “efforts to keep illegal immigrants from taking North Carolinians’ jobs.” He helped create 205-acre Pisgah View State Park in Buncombe-Haywood, and get $200,000 to handle certain underground petroleum leaks.
He passed a raise for state law enforcement officers. Early in the forum, he saluted slain Henderson County Deputy Ryan Hendrix.
For more info, check ChuckEdwardsNC.com or search Facebook for “Senator Chuck Edwards” and “Chuck Edwards for NC Senate.”