Sen. Berger’s Opening Day Remarks

Raleigh, N.C. — Senate Leader Phil Berger’s (R-Rockingham) opening day remarks as prepared are below:

Thank you for the warm welcome and for bestowing on me the honor of continuing to serve as President Pro Tempore of the North Carolina Senate.

Before I begin, I want to thank members of the color guard from Morehead High School in Eden and Master Sergeant Ronda Vazquez, for helping to make this event special and memorable for all of us. And I would like to recognize and thank our clerk, Sarah Holland, and her staff for all they do to help us. And finally, thanks to our Sergeant-at-Arms, Bob Myrick, and his staff for their help and assistance.

We enter this new year, and new legislative session, with a renewed commitment to the people of North Carolina.

While today is a ceremonious occasion for the General Assembly, we must remember why we are here.

We are here because the people placed faith in us to care for the state they love. This day is as much about them as it is about us.

Their voices — uttered through ballot boxes across North Carolina — signaled the direction they want North Carolina to take.

North Carolina is growing every day. Between July 2021 and July 2022, nearly 100,000 new residents moved here from other states. Many to escape states like New York, Illinois, and California, where opportunities and jobs are hard to come by.

Those new residents see the promise in North Carolina of more freedom, of an opportunity to prosper, and of a bright future for themselves and their families.

As more people find a home here, we must remain committed to what has made North Carolina the best state in which to live, to work, and to raise a family.

A little over a decade ago, a new majority gained control of this body and of the chamber on the other side of this building. That new majority made a commitment to the people that North Carolina would take a new direction.

I stood before this body at that time and said that history would judge us on the success or failure of that commitment.

Looking back, we were in a dire situation. We inherited a $2.5 billion budget deficit, teachers and state employees were facing layoffs, job creation was lagging, and North Carolina’s tax and regulatory climate were impediments to growth and employment.

Our vision for North Carolina was clear — smaller, smarter, more efficient government and a confidence that the private sector would respond positively to lower taxes and less government red tape.

Over the last 12 years and following the simple formula of lower taxes, less regulation, and a commitment to quality education, our state has flourished.

North Carolina regularly ranks as a top state for business and jobs. We continue to recruit and attract a wide variety of employers and entrepreneurs to the state. The big job announcements grab the headlines, but every job created in the private sector, facilitated by conservative state policy, makes an impact.

And look at the result.

Since 2011 more than 643,000 new jobs have been created. Our unemployment rate has dropped dramatically, the rate of citizens in poverty has been reduced, and thanks to historic reductions in tax rates, North Carolinians are keeping more of their hard-earned money.

Confounding so-called “experts” in government finance, we accomplished all this and at the same time saw revenue to state coffers exceed projections, creating record state surpluses and a rainy day reserve fund that is the envy of our neighboring states.

Those results were not achieved by accident or happenstance.

And contrast what we’ve done with what is happening in those states our new residents are fleeing — high taxes, out-of-control government spending, schools that cater to bureaucrats instead of students and parents, and politicians and special interest activists trampling the values that many Americans and North Carolinians still hold dear.

Today, I can’t help but think about what we have done and what we will continue to do for our citizens, their children and grandchildren, and for generations to come.

Many articulate as a goal, to leave something better than when they found it. Without question, North Carolina and its state government are in a far better place than 12 years ago.

Now, we must build on that success so future generations of North Carolinians can reach even greater heights.

We must provide them with the tools needed to determine their future — from a world-class education to finding a good-paying job in a career of their choice, or to the freedom and opportunity to open their own business.

All of the accolades we collect now aren’t guaranteed in the future. Presently, we’re the best state in which to live, work and do business. But the wrong policy decisions could change that status at any moment.

In order to stay on top, we must continue to make the right decisions and do the hard work to maintain and improve the opportunities that currently exist.

We must further reduce taxes.

We must continue to keep regulations in check and roll back those that are unnecessary and create impediments to growth and job creation.

We must effectively address critical infrastructure needs like roads, water and sewer, and broadband.

We must continue to demand world-class educational opportunities for our students.

We’ve made incredible strides, but there is always more to be done.

Parents across North Carolina want a greater say in their child’s education — from being involved and knowledgeable about the curriculum, to the opportunity to send their child to a school that fits that child’s educational needs. Our schools must be focused on serving students and parents.

In previous sessions, legislators came together to pass historic legislation to return students to in-person instruction and to address childhood literacy. We’re seeing some promising gains since we passed the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021 and implemented the science of reading in our elementary school curriculum.

We cannot be complacent simply because we’re starting to see gains. There are still far too many students who are struggling to read. We must renew and redouble efforts to improve reading outcomes for all students.

We must disabuse ourselves of the notion that more money alone buys positive outcomes for our students.

Success in education policy is about more than hitting some arbitrary funding goal.

This isn’t a partisan issue. We must come together to ensure that our students can read and have the opportunity for a quality education. Without question, education is a great equalizer in a free society. We fail in our most important task if we fail to recognize and act on that fact.

We need our K-12, community college, and university systems to work together to meet the demands of a 21st-century economy.

As we begin to look at the issues we must tackle in the upcoming biennium, one of those issues is expanding Medicaid. I support expanding Medicaid in North Carolina. However, we must recognize that it is not a silver bullet. North Carolinians are saddled with some of the highest healthcare costs in the country. We need to eliminate regulatory red tape and other bureaucratic barriers that impede access to care and unnecessarily increase medical costs.

I intend to work toward expanding Medicaid together with the necessary regulatory changes to expand access to care. I hope you will join me.

North Carolinians deserve to feel safe in their communities. We will continue to support law enforcement and uphold rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

It is our duty as elected officials to represent the people. We must come together, no matter our party, to find solutions and follow through on those.

While the voters returned a Republican supermajority to this chamber, endorsing the conservative policies that have restored North Carolina as the leader in the Southeast, I believe we can achieve a shared goal of moving North Carolina forward. Despite any disagreements, we owe it to the people of this great state to work tirelessly for them.

I am optimistic about our state’s future, just as I was 12 years ago. To the people of North Carolina, thank you for trusting us to serve you.

May God bless this chamber, and God bless North Carolina.

Thank you.

Press releases from N.C. Senate Republicans and Senate Leader Phil Berger

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Press releases from N.C. Senate Republicans and Senate Leader Phil Berger