Raleigh, N.C. — Former Gov. Jim Hunt says North Carolina must continue to invest in its people and resources if it is to continue growing and prospering in the future.
Hunt, who turns 80 on Tuesday, will celebrate his milestone birthday in a Thursday gathering at the Executive Mansion, which he called home for a record 16 years leading the state.
"I'm not campaigning for office, but I'm campaigning for this state and for it becoming the best it can possibly be," he said during a recent interview in which he emphasized the need for state government to serve the people.
"We're not doing the big work we did under Terry Sanford. We're not doing the big work we did under Jim Holshouser," he said, referring to two of his predecessors as governor.
Holshouser, a Republican, rejected calls to cut taxes when he came into office in 1973, Hunt said, choosing instead to spend surplus revenue on creating a public school kindergarten program statewide.
"We have to be careful with how we spend our money, but we ought to be investing in opportunity," Hunt said. "This is the time to do big things."
The Republican-controlled Senate last week approved a $22.9 billion budget for 2017-18 that cuts both personal and corporate income tax rates, the latest in a series of tax cuts state lawmakers have approved in recent years. The House is now working on its spending plan for the coming year.
Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper urged lawmakers to invest tax revenue produced by North Carolina's growing economy in public schools and infrastructure.
Hunt said Democrats and Republicans need to come together to move North Carolina forward. Spending on education, infrastructure and the environment would draw more business to the state and improve the lives of residents, he said.
"I understand the potential of North Carolina, and I want us to be the very best we can be. I want us to be the best state in America," he said. "We're just kind of scratching the surface on a lot of things."