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Guest column – Business leaders should lead

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By Peter Leousis

It’s hard to disagree with the basic thrust of your recent “Time to get moving” editorial [1/9/03]. Our state has serious problems and needs, but no one is speaking out on the issues.

Unfortunately, charities are not in a position to offer the leadership we need. Most of them have one hand out asking for money (in these painful economic times) and the other hand steering their boat. It’s tough for them to be effective critics and leaders.

We need business leaders to step up to the plate, but outside the formal structures of business groups and interests.

An activist business leader like [Capitol Broadcasting Co. Inc. CEO] Jim Goodmon ought to form a nonprofit – call it the Let’s Get Moving Coalition – and recruit a high-profile retired executive like [former Bank of America CEO] Hugh McColl to lead a campaign to enact Gov. Mike Easley’s tax commission’s recommendations and make their adoption contingent on rethinking and reframing state government from the bottom up.

Governor Easley named a commission over a year ago to look at government efficiency, but by most accounts it didn’t go far enough.

We need to rethink the fundamental purpose and function of state government. And we need to let the public know what kind of results it is getting for its money.

The N.C. Progress Board would be a good place to start that process.

As the General Assembly gets underway this week, North Carolina’s leaders will again take a hard look at state government: What should it do? How should it do what it does? Is it doing a good job?

Republicans win the debate on taxes because there’s enough truth to their charges of government waste and duplication to give them credibility. Despite the enormous good that many government programs do, the state government’s house is not in order.

People will support spending more on services if they feel they’re getting good returns on their money. I’d be willing to bet most taxpayers don’t feel they are.

While we wait for someone to take the mantle of responsible leadership, things will get a lot worse before they get better. But until the state puts its house in order, it’s going to be an uphill battle to win the fight for tax reform and adequate funding for critical government services.


Peter Leousis served as assistant state secretary for human services in the administration of former Gov. Jim Hunt.

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