North Carolina next January may be looking at the first complete Republican control of state government since 1898, with the GOP in charge of the legislature, the governors office and the high courts.
Which is just fine with Grover Norquist, one of nations leading conservative strategists, who was in Raleigh last week to among other things meet with Republican leaders to think big thoughts about what GOPGOV might look like.
With a Republican governor and a Republican legislature, North Carolina will probably move into one of the top tier innovative states, Norquist said in an interview.
Norquists definition of innovation might not be everyones cup of tea, since his goal and that of his organization Americans for Tax Reform is to shrink government. Norquist was one of the co-authors of the 1994 Contract with America, and is best known for getting members of Congress to sign an anti-tax pledge. He also helped craft the George W. Bush tax cuts, and his Wednesday meetings in D.C. are a key organizing force for the conservative movement.
One of issues that he talked about in Raleigh was taxes.
GOP lawmakers and Republican gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory have said they want to consider tax reform. They have not spelled out what that means exactly, but McCrory has indicated that he wants to reduce the states income and corporate tax rates to get them more in line with those of surrounding states.
Norquist is urging the lawmakers to move to a single-rate tax either a single-rate income tax or a single-rate sales tax. It would replace a graduated or progressive tax with a flat tax.
You want to have a single-rate tax, so politicians cant divide people into different groups and mug them one at a time, Norquist said.
Its simpler and it would be more pro growth, Norquist said.
One of the challenges you have is, where would I, as an investor, as a business guy, like to have my factory, my office, my business?
Norquist said: Theres North Carolina, 7.7 percent income tax. Or, not that far away, Florida, zero income tax. Or Texas, zero income tax. Its hard to compete with zero.
Because the Republicans may not be in power forever, Norquist suggests they lock in their policies to future generations, by passing a Taxpayer Protection Act, tying spending growth to growth in the GDP plus inflation and a separate measure to require tax increases to be approved by a vote of the people.
Norquist would like to see major changes in public education, an end to tenure for public school teachers and vouchers for parents that would allow them to educate their children in private schools at public expense.
Public schools, Norquist said, become more responsive, if they know a parent can walk out the door and go to a different public school, a parochial school or a home school. All of a sudden the whole school treats parents differently.
A parent with a $6,000 voucher in Indiana or a $5,500 voucher in Arizona or a $6,000 voucher in Louisiana is a different human being than the one who is just told where to send their kid to school, Norquist said. They are treated with respect.
He would like to see changes in how government handles public employees. He said North Carolina, like Utah, should move from a traditional public pension system to a less expensive defined contribution plan such as 401(k) plan, which is more prevalent in the private sector.
Norquist also said there is little reason why the state should be collecting dues for public employee unions. If the employee associations want to collect dues, they should do it themselves.
With no Democratic governor to deal with, he also sees a Republican legislature taking further steps toward tort reform or laws making it harder for individuals to sue companies.
It is not lost on Norquist that in addition to policy goals, a move to cripple public employee groups and hamper trial lawyers also would strike a major blow to the state Democratic Partys efforts to ever mount a political comeback in North Carolina.
The GOP is not a monolith, but a coalition of business people, social conservatives, tea partiers and libertarians among others.
What Norquist is proposing is not necessarily what the legislature will take up. Norquist is the point of the spear of the conservative movement.
But todays Republican Party is far more conservative than when North Carolina last had Republican governors in the 1970s and the 1980s. And Norquists agenda may not be that different from what we see being debated in the halls of the legislature next year.