Sen. Martin Nesbitt is making the rounds in Mecklenburg County today, meeting some of Charlotte's leaders in business, education and other areas. His visit was organized by Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, who wants to send a message that a change in Senate leadership isn't bad news for Mecklenburg or business interests.
The new Senate majority leader, a Democrat from Asheville, chatted with the Observer's editorial board this afternoon. Some highlights:
- Some folks are bracing for a second straight miserable budget debate, but Nesbitt said balancing the ledger won't be so tough this summer. He hopes to restore some funding to mental health services, and to keep education spending flat, despite the ongoing recession. "It won't be easy to fix the budget, but it's manageable. ... People will tell you the sky is falling. It's not good times, but the sky isn't falling."
- The legislature's biggest focus this summer after the budget? Creating jobs. Nesbitt said he thinks the economy won't improve until banks step up their lending to businesses and individuals. He thinks the state legislature can help make that happen. "I think we have a lending problem in this state. We need to work with (the banks) somehow on how to break that logjam."
- Nesbitt said his political philosophy isn't all that different from the majority leader he replaces, Tony Rand. But he said his approach is. "I'm much more inclusive of the members" than Rand was, Nesbitt said. "We'll listen to everyone who wants a say."
- The state needs to reform its tax system "as soon as possible." But that means 2011, Nesbitt said, because it's too big a project to tackle in the 2010 short session.
- Republicans have no chance of winning control in the Senate this fall, Nesbitt said. Republicans beg to differ.
-- Posted by The Observer editorial board