[media-credit name=”Jim Fulghum” align=”alignright” width=”120″][/media-credit]Jim Fulghum — NC State House District 49
Political Party: Republican
How long in district: Born in Raleigh in 1944
Occupation: Neurosurgeon and owns a chicken farm
Campaign website: http://drjimfulghum.com/
The economy is at the top of voters’ minds this year. What do you think elected officials can actually do to address it?
What’s really encouraging is to see what’s been done around the country at the state levels. I’m very impressed with what’s going on with the 29 Republican governors. Twenty-one of those governors have, as we call, unified legislative groups — the lower and upper house are both Republican. They can more or less get an agenda going and see if it works or not. In cases involving personal income tax structures … All of the 29 states are working with balanced budget requirements in their constitution – and they’ve done a pretty remarkable job with this unemployment rate, which has been so persistently high at 8.3 percent nationwide. But North Carolina as you know is 9.6. It’s currently like 44th or 45th for being down the list for unemployment.
You can name several states that have done remarkable turnarounds with the unemployment rate. North Carolina, unfortunately, is not competitive in either of those markers. The unemployment rate is very high, as is the corporate income tax. In fact we stand out as being the highest in the southeast. ..We’re due to take a look at all these numbers on the tax level and get them flatter and fairer.
Why do you think your constituents should elect you?
I’m a physician. And if elected I’d be the only physician … in the house or senate. At least that’s what my Republican caucus tells me … I do have a unique background and not just because of that. I’ve been a farmer. I have a large farm down in Chatham County, and I’ve raised chickens down there for 20 years. I don’t currently have any chickens because of some fairly dumb decisions on the part of the government: Mainly, to convert corn to ethanol. And the jacked up feed prices for all feed stocks. Not only for chickens, but pigs and cattle and so forth. People depend on those proteins coming into the food supply to be fed. And not only the meat products that result from that, but also soy beans coming into the market.
Soy beans and corn are our main sources of feed supply for animals. Converting corn with 40 percent of the domestic supply now going to ethanol, it’s just sheer nonsense… You can make ethanol out of a lot of sources of organic matter, but to do it with something you actually feed the people and then wonder why the corn prices are expected to be at $10 dollars a bushel in the fall?
What do you think of the state’s new fracking law and how do you think it should be implemented?
I think they’ve done it very wisely … They were very careful approaching this whole idea as to first of all, is there something unique about the geology of North Carolina that would make it more or less dangerous or more likely to have groundwater [issues]. Most people are really worried about the groundwater being affected by the technology. The technology has been in existence for many decades and it’s been used in many millions of instances. There are claims that in some instances it has resulted in groundwater contamination. Whether it’s true or not, that study that they have now required to undertake is a very wise way to undertake it.
I have a farm down in Chatham County. I don’t really want to do fracking down there. I don’t even want to get into that area because I don’t think my geology will hold up to it. Because of the nature of the geology on the river. From my standpoint, I want to be sure that if my neighbors undertake that kind of thing that we have a full understanding of what it may mean.
I don’t think we can do it tomorrow … Once we have the data and look at it scientifically, we may say no. Because it has got to pass another step in the legislature before it’s approved. There’s been no approval of fracking. There’s enough going on in other parts of the country that seems to be going on safely.
In a recent Supreme Court ruling, the court gave states the option of expanding the Medicaid program to cover many low-income adults, and the federal government will be paying for the bulk of the expansion. What, if anything, do you think North Carolina should do about expanding Medicaid?
I think people need to understand the whole picture here. The average person [wants to know] how much are you spending? How much is Medicaid costing the state of North Carolina? What is it delivering? Is it efficient? Is it doing the job? Most people have very vague feelings and understandings about it. And I did too, until I started looking into it … My understanding right now is that about $3 billion is spent by state taxpayers on Medicaid each year. People say, ‘my goodness that’s a huge amount of money.’
Because of the arrangement with the Feds, the state is required to spend that $3 billion dollars in order to get $8 billion more from the Feds. You wind up with $11 billion total being spent every year on Medicaid … The point is, how do we spend the money that we get the results that we need to get? Do we understand what’s going on with this expenditure? I began thinking about this. North Carolina has a balanced budget requirement and the $3 billion dollars we spend on Medicaid is part of that balanced budget, where you try to match the revenue coming in to the expenditures going out. That $8 billion is coming in over and above the balanced budget requirement … That money is mostly borrowed and I think that violates a principal.
Not that I’m against us taking care of poor, sick folks. That’s part of what we do as a caring society. But we’ve got to stop kidding ourselves about where this money is coming from.