HAMLET — Richmond County business owners and elected officials came together on Wednesday to discuss issues that may affect the future business and taxes in the county.
North Carolina Rep. Ken Goodman, Rep. Garland Pierce, Sen. Gene McLaurin and Congressman Richard Hudson came together at Cole Auditorium in Hamlet to answer questions from residents concerning the county. One of those topics concerned energy sources in the state.
Solar farms popping up in the county was a question submitted to the officials and how it affected the agricultural lands that it is located on, including the fact that these farms don’t produce full-time jobs.
In response, Goodman said that energy is a “very serious” topic that has been discussed throughout the country especially renewable energy. The solar farms as of now are highly subsidized by the state and Goodman said that money can be made by those involved in the solar farms, but only because it is subsidized by the government. Goodman said that he wasn’t sure if it was the best use of resources. He said that it may be time for the farms to stand on their own.
Hudson took it a step further and brought up the topic of energy in general.
“We need to look at all forms of energy sources because we have so many in this country,” Hudson said.
Hudson said that solar farms were only profitable because of the government subsidies and eventually that money and program will run out. Hudson said at that point the people involved will likely walk away leaving the equipment behind.
Hudson would like to see North Carolina as an energy source for the rest of the country due to the amount of oil that is located in the state off the coast. Hudson referenced hydraulic fracturing, nicknamed “fracking,” and off shore drilling as potential sources in North Carolina.
“There is plenty of potential for energy just in North Carolina,” Hudson said.
Hudson said the utilization of these resources throughout the state and country would create jobs over night while also allowing America to be free from dependence outside fuel resources. Hudson said it would also help in lowering tax rates on fuel.
Fuel taxes became another topic of concern as County Commissioner Don Bryant asked why the tax in North Carolina was higher than South Carolina.
Goodman said the reasoning behind this was that many local roads in South Carolina are paid for by local governments, but in North Carolina, the state assumes those responsibilities. North Carolina also develops more roads than most other states in the country. Goodman did note that the fuel tax was not going as far as it used to due to cars getting better gas mileage and one proposal is to have more toll roads, but Goodman isn’t sure if that’s the right way to go.
Pierce said the difference between the roads in North Carolina and South Carolina shows why the tax is higher. North Carolina roads tend to be in better condition than those located in South Carolina.
McLaurin was in favor of trying to get the gas tax lowered, but said that it makes a difference that some local roads in
Hudson said that North Carolina was a donor state for federal transportation money. Hudson believed that the more money kept in the state instead of come from the federal government would help lower the cost.
“I’d be fine with North Carolina keeping its own money and taking care of its own roads,” Hudson said.
Hudson has been working on a bill known as the Sunset Law that would require an expiration date on temporary government programs and to force Congress oversee the programs that have been created by the federal government.