Justin LaNasa is no stranger to regional ballots. Most recently, LaNasa lost a bid for Wilmington mayor, in 2011. After a brief stint as a Libertarian, the weapons designer, real estate agent, and owner of several businesses--including a Wilmington tattoo parlor--is back to his Republican roots, and running for Senate District 9. And LaNasa is dedicated to lowering taxes, exploring new revenue streams—and seeing more checks and balances in government.
WHQR's Katie O'Reilly: In 2010 you worked to stop a sales tax referendum. How do you feel about the new 4.75% privilege tax that’s been added into the price of admission to entertainment and nonprofit tickets—such as movies and museum tickets—as part of North Carolina’s tax reform package?
Justin LaNasa: No matter whichever way it ends, the state and local governments have to figure out how to balance their budgets. And by doing this, they raise taxes. I feel putting a hold on overspending, and coming up with new ways to make revenue occur—I feel that would be a much better way than raising taxes.
KO: Do you have any ideas for some of those new ways to raise revenues?
JL: Legalize marijuana. Have it run solely by the state, distributed through the ABC Board. We would be out of the red within a year. We wouldn’t have sixty-three cents per gallon of gas tax, we could lower state tax; we could lower local taxes. It’s a cash crop right now. And all the other states know it, and they’re following suit. If we’re the last one to follow suit, we lost on the bang for our buck.
KO: How else will you work to lower taxes?
JL: I feel by keeping taxes low for small businesses, that will in turn open up more jobs. So it’s almost like two things at once. If you lower taxes for small business, and keep it affordable for them, I feel we can increase job rates. And that’s really what we want on both ends.
KO: Do you have any other ideas for reducing coastal North Carolina’s unemployment rates?
JL: Clean business would be a definite key for bringing jobs for this area, and that’s one thing that I’ll never turn down, is like, in the sixties I heard Boeing was going to try and open up a giant facility here over by the airport, and our City Council turned them down. It would’ve been 19,000 jobs, back in the sixties. So, things of that nature is what we need. We don’t need smokestacks; we don’t need pollution. Our main driver here in the coastal community is tourism. And we need to protect that. And as a senator I’ll try my hardest to protect anything that will bring us revenue.
KO: And how do you feel about incentives to attract the film industry to District 9?
JL: I feel in my heart, if you give a dollar, and you receive a dollar-fifty back, that’s a no-brainer. The statistics show that with a dollar of incentive money, we get back a dollar-fifty through them spending, and what comes to benefit from giving those incentives. You know, we were a much bigger movie industry until Georgia took a big chuck of our film. And again, I mean, a lot of people that are against movie incentives think they don’t gain by the incentives that they’re spending here—but the whole community gains. That’s where people that are narrow-minded, shouldn’t focus on, ‘Well I’m not a small businessman; I’m not gonna get anything back. I don’t own a restaurant; I’m not gonna get returns from them eating here.’ It’s the whole picture. They spend in every direction.
KO: Do you have any ideas for how state legislators could more efficiently work with public officials at the local level?
JL: That’s another big thing—I think lines of communication need to be opened up, and meetings scheduled for city council members and county commissioners. And I also feel that state legislation should hold our county commissioners and city councilmen more to the line, and make up legislation that would protect our citizens from our county commissioners and our city council members. There’s things that they introduce and do that are far and beyond norms. For instance, I know someone personally that, their property taxes went up eight hundred percent in one year. I believe that there should be legislation that says our local municipalities cannot raise your property taxes that high in one year. We need to protect our citizens because there are folks out there, in local government, that do not have a handle on what’s going on.
KO: Justin LaNasa, thanks for joining us today.
Justin LaNasa is one of three Republicans vying for Thom Goolsby’s Senate seat in state District 9. A weapons designer, real estate agent, and owner of several small businesses including a downtown Wilmington tattoo parlor, LaNasa is passionate about protecting citizens from tax and insurance rate increases, and allowing small business to flourish.
LaNasa worked to stop a New Hanover County sales tax referendum in 2010. The Army and Coast Guard veteran has also run for several regional and Wilmington city offices--and briefly became a Libertarian after losing the mayoral bid in 2011. While LaNasa says he now sees the value of a sales tax, he’s willing to fight to lower those levies imposed upon property owners and businesses.
"I feel taxes should be looked at in a wide range. That’s the number one priority. Second would be coastal insurance. I feel that living here on the coast, we as a society here are getting duped. When all the storms come through, I mean, Raleigh takes big hits, big damages, and, you know, we don’t suffer hardly any. But we suffer the rates when it comes to insurance."
As senator, LaNasa says he’ll urge state insurance commissioners to look at analysis and statistics measuring current coastal storm damage—rather than measures from ten or twelve years ago—and change rates accordingly.