[media-credit name="Neal Hunt" align="alignright" width="214"][/media-credit]Neal Hunt — NC State Senate District 15
Political Party: Republican
Campaign website: nealhunt.com
The economy is at the top of voters’ minds in this year’s election. What do you think elected officials can do to address it?
Well, the economy is primarily driven by federal policies. However, the state of North Carolina can do certain things to make sure we’re competitive with our other states as well as foreign countries. The best way to address that is to make sure that we’re attractive for business expansion and for new businesses to come into North Carolina. The way to do that is to make sure you have the best business environment, which includes low taxes and minimal regulation. We’ve also got to make sure that we have the best educational system possible, that we have clean air and clean water and an excellent transportation system. So these are the areas that I’ve been working on and will continue to work on.
Why should your constituents elect you?
I have a lot of experience. As you may know, I served for several years on the Raleigh City Council and this is my fifth term in the North Carolina Senate. I am a co-chair of Base Budget Appropriations, which is the committee that basically determines how money is spent in the state for our budget purposes. I spent about 40 years in business doing budgets and meeting payroll. I had a fairly good-sized small business; we had a maximum of about 300 employees. So, I know what it takes, I think, to run a business and make sure budgets are balanced. I’ve also had leadership roles in community services.
What do you think of the state’s new fracking law and how do you think it should be implemented?
I actually voted against that particular law, and the reason I did was I felt like the panel supervising the fracking activities was too heavily weighted toward drilling and mining interests. That’s the one. Number two, I feel like we should have required, or at least allowed the panel, or the commission, to have the authority to require a performance bond from the company that they’re doing the drilling. And the reason I thought that was appropriate was, in the event of a company drilling and causing some environmental problem, in the event they could not pay the fine, all they had to do was declare bankruptcy and walk away, and that would lead to taxpayers and the state with the expense of cleaning up. So, for those two reasons I did vote against it, although I will say I think that, if done properly, it’s a good thing for the state. But I did vote against it for the reason I just described.
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?
Let me preface my remarks by saying that Medicaid — not only in North Carolina, but in all the states — is pretty much out of control. We currently expend about 15 percent of our budget on Medicaid. That’s the state’s share. So every time the federal government says “we’re going to pay for it,” they don’t pay for it all, they pay for a certain percentage of it. So, in North Carolina, we’re currently spending about $11 billion per year on Medicaid. Now, the entire state budget is about 20 billion. Now, our share of that 11 billion is a little over 3 billion. But you can see how any expansion of Medicaid services is really going to have a tremendous fiscal impact on the state of North Carolina. Currently Medicaid offers certain optional services. I’m think we need to be careful that we don’t expand those services to the extent that we can’t afford it. So we’ve got to make sure that we have the money to pay for whatever the federal government mandates.