Touts his conservative values over Cornelius counterpart
For south Charlotte legislator Ric Killian, the competition to become the next speaker of the N.C. House comes down to a battle of ideas versus money.
Killian, 46, knows he can’t compete with the money fellow Mecklenburg Republican Thom Tillis or Durham Republican Paul “Skip” Stam have raised for other House members. Tillis, the Cornelius resident who is currently minority whip, and Stam, the current minority leader, are two that media mention first as likely to win the battle for the top job in the House, when the new Republican majority takes power in late January.
But Killian believes he would win in a battle for conservative ideals. And he’s counting on the wave of new, tea-party leaning conservative members of the N.C. House to support someone who promises to change the way the state and the N.C. House operate.
He’ll know if he’s right Saturday, when Republicans gather in Raleigh to choose their leaders in next year’s legislative session.
“If we’re going to promote our leaders by how much money they can raise, I think that’s a flawed strategy,” Killian said from his south Charlotte home last week. “Basing our strategy on a person’s campaign support and fundraising ability is the last thing our state needs right now.”
Killian points to a different rating system: The nonprofit, arch-conservative Civitas Action ranked Killian as second most conservative member of the N.C. House. Stam comes in at 20th and Tillis at 33rd on the list.
That rating is important because, according to a number of published reports, Civitas is one of three organizations backed by Art Pope and his family’s Variety Stores chain, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars nationally and across North Carolina supporting tea-party leaning candidates.According to its website, www.civitasaction.org, Tillis got a 50 percent “conservative effectiveness score” in the 2010 legislative session, compared to Killian’s 92.3 percent.
Killian has been on the phone almost nonstop since the results of the Nov. 2 election became clear, asking House Republicans to support him as the next speaker.
Though he’s calling all Republicans for votes, “my message is resonating with the new members particularly,” Killian said. “They are the core support for reform.”
The south Charlotte real estate developer hopes to use his outsider status – not being part of the current Republican leadership – to win the election, which he acknowledges, “I’m sort of starting from behind.”
Killian promises two types of reform: one in the way the state handles its financial affairs and the second in how the House itself operates and treats its members.
His first priority is “balancing the state budget without raising taxes,” he said. To do that he promises:
• Start from zero on the state’s budget and examine it “line by line by line,” knowing that he will have to cut an estimated $3.5 billion that state budget writers expect to fall short in the 2011-12 budget year. He promises to do this in an “open, transparent and effective manner.”
“It will be very, very challenging and very, very difficult,” he said, acknowledging the three largest expenses for the state are schools, health and human services and public safety. “But we will do it. … Fiscal responsibility is a duty. It’s not Democratic or Republican. It is the duty of every legislator.”
• Support for an amendment to the N.C. Constitution that would limit future increases in state spending to the rate of inflation and the state’s population. Killian wants to take fiscal restraint out of the hands of each General Assembly.
• Support for another constitutional amendment that would require the state to get voter approval – in a referendum – before it can issue any more debt. Since 2000, the legislature has taken on “billions of debt” without voter approval by selling “certificates of participation,” which work just like a bond but don’t require voters’ approval, Killian said.
In promising reform of the N.C. House, Killian said he wants “to rebalance power so that it can’t be abused.”
He promised to revise House rules “to prevent abuse of power, to keep bills from being unfairly stopped” and lost in committees.
“I would provide a different leadership style,” he said. “Our power doesn’t come from the top. It comes from the people, and I want to hear individual members’ thoughts and use their strengths.”
Killian believes he has a large audience. “There are a lot of new members, and they feel this need” to reform state spending and the legislature itself,” he said. “I’m building a base of support.”