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How we are saving North Carolinians $4.4 billion over five years: Gov. McCrory

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory
Source: The Office of North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory

This year North Carolina is experiencing one of the fastest-growing economies in the country. We have delivered $4.4 billion in tax relief, fixed our broken unemployment insurance system, reformed our transportation funding formula and economic development strategy, and invested in education to strengthen the state's economy and put more people back to work.

Three years ago North Carolina had the highest income and corporate tax rates in the Southeast. By signing historic tax reform into law, we are putting more money back into the paychecks of hardworking families and businesses by reducing personal and corporate tax rates. This reform is saving North Carolinians $4.4 billion over five years and has made North Carolina attractive to corporations, investors, entrepreneurs, small businesses and families.

Turning a budget deficit into a surplus

North Carolina has also made paying off debt a priority. Businesses in North Carolina once owed the federal government more than $2.5 billion for unemployment insurance. Reforms to the state's unemployment system allowed this debt to not only be repaid three years early but built up a reserve fund of more than $1.5 billion to prepare for any future economic downturns. It also reduced unemployment taxes for businesses by almost $800 million, allowing further investments in employees, modernization and expansion.

Streamlining the state's workforce development programs and making government more customer-friendly have built on these reforms and supported existing and new companies in our state. This has helped put North Carolinians back to work. North Carolina has lower unemployment in all 100 counties, and our private sector has created more than 275,000 jobs, taking North Carolina from the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the United States to one of the fastest drops in unemployment in the country.

These initiatives, along with turning a budget deficit into a surplus, have fueled the Carolina Comeback and allowed our state to make strategic investments to remain a top state for business.

North Carolina is investing in roads and infrastructure to connect more businesses, people and visitors to opportunities. We are working to retain veterans and ensure they and their families have the education, jobs, health care and other services they deserve.

In the last three years, North Carolina has invested more than $1 billion in new funding for teacher raises, and we have committed to boosting average teacher pay to more than $50,000 for the first time in state history. We have also set a bold goal to connect every classroom to robust Wi-Fi to enhance digital learning opportunities.

Preparing for future growth

However, the most important investment North Carolina has made that will have the largest impact in the next decade on maintaining our status as a top state for business is the Connect NC bond. Overwhelmingly approved by voters this year, we championed this bond proposal to invest in our state's education, public safety, state parks, agriculture and infrastructure. The passage of this $2 billion bond was a model for the rest of the nation on how people from all parties and backgrounds can work together in our state to prepare for future growth rather than react to it.

The $1.3 billion investment from the bond for higher education builds on our world-class university and community college systems. Investments were primarily dedicated to STEM fields, including the construction of new science labs, health facilities, nursing schools and engineering buildings. These strategic investments will make sure our students and workforce have the talent needed to attract businesses and compete globally.

The bond also invests $100 million into North Carolina's State Parks and Zoo, protecting our natural resources and improving our quality of life that is second to none. Public safety was supported through updates to National Guard readiness centers, and small towns will receive funds for needed water and sewer infrastructure to support future growth and job creation.

Pragmatic leadership has propelled a strong economic comeback and made North Carolina one of the fastest-growing states in the country. Our state is committed to honoring the rich legacy of inclusiveness, diversity and hospitality that makes North Carolina a global destination for jobs, business, tourists and talent. Through strategic investments, North Carolina is poised to continue the progress and remain a top state for business for generations to come.

— By North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory

Editor's note: This commentary was written before the release of the Top States 2016 data. The governor did not have knowledge of the rankings or the comprehensive data.