We’ve been conducting interviews with area lawmakers over the past week, as many were home for their version of spring break. Our conversations continue with Representative John Ager, a Democrat of Buncombe County. In the segment below, we talked to Ager about recent changes the legislature made to the state gasoline tax, which was immediately cut by a cent and a half, but that initial cut actually prevented the tax from dropping much further -as was projected, because the gas tax is tied to the wholesale price of gasoline.
Area Democrats say education should be a top priority as lawmakers return to Raleigh to work on the state budget. A number of state lawmakers spoke out during the week-long recess about the need to aid our public schools and universities. Ager was one of them. He says public schools are hurting.
“The teachers I talk to are very demoralized. The pay is only part of it. The push to make them accountable with all the testing, you know, they feel like they went into teaching to change young lives and they’re being put in a system that demeans them, and just the human element is almost taken out of it.”
Ager expands on education in the segment below:
In addition to the budget, another item to watch is another proposed change to a local government. The city of Greensboro is preparing for a battle over changes to its city council. The city has hired a law firm to lobby legislators on the issue and to represent the city in case of a legal battle. Lawmakers want to change the city council in a way they say will make for better representation. Opponents say it’s simply another power grab by Republicans wanting to make changes that benefit their party in Democratic strongholds. They’ve changed how Wake County elects its commissioners in a way that favors Republicans. And they made changes to Buncombe County in the last session. Ager says all the gerrymandering amounts to pure partisan politics.
“The way the districts are drawn they tend to create more extreme candidates on both sides. That’s one reason why Washington’s dysfunctional and it’s harder for us to get along because we don’t have as many moderate candidates. I consider myself a moderate Democrat. There are people that run that have no opponents, and they have to appeal to their extreme base, and I think that’s been unhealthy.”
Those are just a few of the many issues we covered in the full interview, which you can find at the top of this article. You can find other conversations here: with Rep. Brian Turner, Rep. Susan Fisher, Rep. Joe Sam Queen, and with Sen. Terry Van Duyn.
*WCQS reached out to members of both parties in the same manner, with a phone call to both office and home numbers listed on the lawmakers' websites and with a message to their legislative email accounts. We have so far interviewed all 5 Democrats: Representatives Brian Turner, John Ager, Susan Fisher and Joe Sam Queen and Senator Terry Van Duyn. We've received no confirmations from among the 4 Republicans we reached out to: Representatives Chuck McGrady, Josh Dobson, Michelle Presnell and Senator Tom Apodaca. So far, we have heard from Sen. Apodaca's office letting us know he is unavailable, and Rep. Dobson's office telling us he is in Raleigh working on the budget.