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Legislative Wrap: Rep. Joe Sam Queen

Jeremy Loeb/WCQS
Rep. Joe Sam Queen (D-Haywood, Jackson, Swain) at WCQS

WCQS is conducting a series of interviews with area lawmakers about the recently-completed legislative session.  Our series continues today with Rep. Joe Sam Queen, a Democrat representing Haywood, Jackson, and Swain counties.  Queen is in his sixth term at the General Assembly.  He said this session lacked leadership and vision.  Our full conversation is above.  And you can hear some of the highlights in the segments below.

In the budget passed by both chambers and signed by Governor Pat McCrory, major changes were made to North Carolina's tax system.  Corporate tax rates were allowed to further decline.  The threshold for income to where income taxes would be applied was raised, effectively lowering income tax rates.  To pay for it, sales taxes were expanded to some services like the labor for auto repairs.  The expanded sales taxes would also be distributed in primarily rural counties, where urban counties would see no benefit.  Queen says the system benefits the rich at the expense of the average citizen. 

Rep. Joe Sam Queen on tax changes

Joe Sam Queen says the worst thing this legislature is doing is declining to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  But the legislature did complete a revamp of North Carolina's Medicaid system.  If approved by the federal government, the system of care would go from provider-led to a hybrid mix of provider care and private insurance.  Queen is no fan of the changes.

Rep. Joe Sam Queen on changes to Medicaid

At the end of the session, the two chambers agreed to allow for more job incentive grant money - the Job Development Investment Grants, or JDIG.  Governor Pat McCrory had implored the legislature for the funds since before the session even started more than 8 months ago.  Queen says he's in favor of job investment, but he says the JDIG expansion was just a way for the governor to land a big project that he could take credit for.

Rep. Joe Sam Queen on job incentive grants

One initiative Queen took that he hopes to revive during the short session in April involves vapor tobacco products.  He says while "vape" products are treated as tobacco products, they aren't subject to the state cigarette tax.  He'd like to change that.

Rep. Joe Sam Queen on taxing vapor tobacco products

There's much more in the full conversation at the top of the page.  You'll be able to hear from more area lawmakers in the coming days and weeks, and links to the ones we've already aired are below.

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