Rabin: 'We made great progress'
Editor's note: This is the first of three profiles of local elected officials reflecting on their work this summer and looking ahead to the spring, when they return to Raleigh. Rep. Mike Stone will be featured Wednesday, and Rep. Deb McManus will be featured Thursday.
According to state Sen. Ronald Rabin, the North Carolina General Assembly had a pretty great session this past summer.
And he's not taking a break, but instead getting ready to return to Raleigh next week for some committee work on energy and public safety in advance of the next session, which starts in May.
Rabin, a retired Army colonel who lives in Anderson Creek, represents Harnett and Lee counties in the N.C. Senate. And although he didn't get many of his own bills passed in his first year as an elected official, Rabin said he was proud to have been part of the Republican majority that made many changes — including some controversial ones — in their first chance in anyone's lifetime to legislate with the House, Senate and governor's office all under Republican control.
Rabin also said that as long as he's in office, his door, email and phone line will be open to any and all of his constituents: "If I don't listen, I can't do my job."
And as he saw it this summer, his job included supporting his party and advancing what he believed to be the wishes of the conservative base that swept him to office — a platform of reducing taxes, controlling state spending and increasing the state's business friendliness.
"In essence, I think we made great progress in all those areas," he said, adding that he's probably most proud of the tax reform that cut personal and corporate income taxes. Immediately after that change, he said, a group that had ranked North Carolina 44th friendliest state for business moved it up to number 17.
"Once you get people believing it's a more business-friendly, tax-friendly [state], corporations will want to move here," said Rabin, who served as vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "People will want to move here."
On the other end of the spectrum, Rabin said the thing he was least happy about was education funding, and specifically the fact that teachers didn't get raises. He echoed what party leaders have said: The state's Medicaid debt had to be addressed, and there was only so much money to go around. But next time, Rabin said, it will be a top priority.
Other goals for the future include improving infrastructure like roads and bridges, scaling back business regulations and working to make North Carolina more popular with military contractors.
There are billions of dollars in the defense contracting business, and Rabin said he's baffled that North Carolina has the fourth-largest military presence in the country but only ranks 24th in defense contracting. He'd love to see a major company open an office in the state within 10 years, he said, so he's trying to create a military affairs committee to facilitate that and other military-related workforce development ideas.
As for some of the more controversial issues, Rabin joined in with most of his colleagues in overturning vetoes from Republican Gov. Pat McCrory on laws regarding immigration checks for seasonal workers and drug testing of welfare recipients. Rabin also said he supported voter ID changes, which recently drew a lawsuit from the federal government.
"I think that to deny voter fraud issues is to play ostrich and put your head in the sand," he said.
Rabin also supported all of the local bills affecting Lee County — which have prompted much local controversy and at least one lawsuit so far — introduced by Rep. Mike Stone, a fellow Republican.
"The majority voted him in," Rabin said. "The majority voted me in. That's just the way it works."
Overall, however, Rabin said most of what goes on in Raleigh is handled with bipartisan support. He said he respects everyone he works with and is glad just to have the chance to make a difference.
"The total community of senators and representatives, regardless of party affiliation, are all good people trying to make North Carolina the best state in the nation," he said.