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Censorship of climate change data is 'stupidity,' McGrady says

State Rep. Chuck McGrady speaks at a League of Women Voters forum on April 2. State Rep. Chuck McGrady speaks at a League of Women Voters forum on April 2.

State Rep. Chuck McGrady fended off criticism over funding of schools last week, saying "we're going to do better" on funding. Pointing to his own rise in leadership roles, McGrady, who chairs a House committee that shapes the public education budget, pledged to use that power to help schools.


"Politics is the art of the possible," he said during a 117th House District forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters. "When I was a county commissioner you may remember I ran 10 years ago that I was going to raise taxes for schools, and I did. But I only had to count to three. Now I've got to count to 61."
Ronnie Edwards, a retired state motor vehicles division investigator who is challenging McGrady in the May 6 Republican primary, said the Legislature had underfunded education and ceded economic development to competing states.
"And we're headed the wrong way, going from 26th to 46th" in teacher pay, he said.
The sharpest attack line of the night came when someone asked the candidates why state agencies have been scrubbing their websites of information about climate change.
"I would chalk it up to stupidity," McGrady said.

Here are excerpts from the forum.

League: What is your position on funding education?

HouseRonnieRonnie Edwards speaks during a League of Women Voters forum.Edwards: "We cannot have good jobs without education (and the state should not) keep taking the funding out of education. Education's the backbone of our economy, of our environment, the whole situation. You've got to be educated. You've got to start from the very beginning educating children to have them grow up and find a good job. Companies that come to locate, one thing they look at is cost effectiveness and also the skill of the people to be able to do the job. If you don't have a skilled workforce, we're not going to get the jobs. And we're headed the wrong way, going from 26th to 46th. Other states will get there."

McGrady: "All education is important. We need to fund university system, we need to fund community colleges. But the best return on investment is the money you spend early. You build the basic building blocks for everything else. The focus the last couple of years particularly on reaching third grade reading goals I think is critical. If you don't have that life skill, everything else is hard to reach. So I think we've got to put money toward pre-K, K and 1 through 3 — probably the most important of all the money we spend on education."

Why was the climate change information taken off the North Carolina website?

McGrady: "I would chalk it up to stupidity. That's not the way to deal with this issue. There's difference of opinion. Let's talk about those differences and have it out. Taking it off of a website and pretending it isn't an issue anymore is not the way to deal with that issue or any number of others."

Edwards: "I agree. We're a society of open information. Everybody should be able to read the information out there, make their own decisions and go from there. We've got to be an open society, and sure there is going to be disagreements. That's how policy is made. We have disagreements, we work through them and move on. We don't limit resources that people read to learn and base their own opinion on."

Why does North Carolina still have the competition-inhibiting certificate of need process?

McGrady: "When a hospital particularly but also a hospice wants to expand, in this state there's not free competition there. You've got to get a certificate of need that allows you to expand and additional room, additional beds, bigger X-ray machines. And so one of the things that's being discussed in the General Assembly right now is to potentially do away with the certificate of need process. Some other states don't have it. We have it primarily to keep hospitals and other medical providers from competing too much. They always want the biggest and the best. They all buy the biggest X-ray machines or digital, whatever it is, and it gets much more expensive. Sen. Apodaca actually chairs the committee on certificate of need right now. The hospitals in this county have one opinion, the orthopedic doctors have a different opinion and the doctors that work in the hospitals have a different opinion — all of them because of where they're employed, and it's all about money. I would urge you to go talk to Sen. Apodaca."

Edwards: "I was going to follow up on what he said. What it all boils down to, it's about money. It all goes back to the money base. I don't know why we have a certificate of need but that's what it boils down to, just the power of money."

Closing statements

McGrady: "Three years ago I went to Raleigh. I got there just in time to find out we had a $3 billion deficit in the budget and shortly after that I found out we owed $1 billion to the federal government for unemployment compensation. Our tax reform system, we hadn't been able to change that in 30 or 40 years, and we dealt with those issues and more. We balanced the budget without raising taxes. We rolled back the so-called temporary taxes, we reformed the tort system, medical malpractice system, the unemployment compensation system. So we've done what we said we were going to do and I've done what I said I was going to do. I've been a leader. I haven't been there very long. I led on the farm bill, very important to our leaders here. I've taken my lead from the county commissioners, the mayors and the city councils here. Whenever they come to me on an issue in Raleigh, I think with no exceptions, working with Sen. Apodaca and my colleagues we've gotten that work done. I've been a leader on some of the most important issues in the state. I chaired the Education Appropriations Committee. We're going to do better. Politics is the art of the possible. When I was a county commissioner you may remember I ran 10 years ago that I was going to raise taxes for schools, and I did. But I only had to count to three. Now I've got to count to 61. All I'm saying is that I am a leader in some of most important issues in the state right now and that's why Henderson County ought to return me to the General Assembly."

Edwards: "Like you, I want what's best for the county. Being a representative is not a free pass to impose your will on people. It's a job. I'm here to serve Henderson County and I have for the past 30 years. I'll always vote, no matter how controversial the issue. I will answer emails in a timely manner. I will pick up the phone, talk to the leaders, talk to individuals in the community. I'll be out with the community, talking about the issues. I won't sit around and wait for someone to call me and say well I never heard anything from anybody. I'll go out and talk to the community. Each and every one of you will see me in the community. I will hard for the people of Henderson County and work to keep our trust and respect."