Michael T. Burns grew up in western North Carolina’s Jackson County, and spent time living in Georgia, Idaho and Raleigh before calling Wilmington home. Burns manages a RadioShack in Wilmington, and is active within the local Mormon Church.
A political newcomer, he’s also running for the District 9 Senate seat soon to be vacated by Thom Goolsby. Burns, a Republican, says Goolsby has done a wonderful job, and that he hopes to continue his work. WHQR’s Katie O’Reilly spoke with the 20-year retail veteran about his plans to create local business--while cutting government spending.
KO: Tell us about your ideas to spur job growth in the Cape Fear region.
MB: Allowing local businesses to reopen up, and encouraging local businesses to open up locally, to create jobs for the District, and working with the companies that are already within the District, is gonna be one of my primary focuses.
KO: What types of businesses should we be incenting here?
MB: For small businesses, there always has to be tax incentives. We have to encourage small businesses to open up to revitalize downtown. You can walk Front Street, you can walk River Walk, you can go into any of the small beaches and you see empty buildings. We have to work with people who want to become an entrepreneur--that have been taken by this economic downturn we’ve had as a country--and invite them to open those businesses back up—whether that be a small restaurant, a clothing store, a tourist shop. You have all these beaches that rely on tourists, so we have to be able to have the businesses there to support those, and with those businesses, we can support job growth.
KO: How would this translate to less government involvement?
MB: If we allow that to happen we will see not only jobs come back into our community, but we will see money come back into the community, which would allow people to no longer have to have subsidies for housing, or subsidies for, you know, paying for their own food. Those are things that, you know, I think people want to take care of themselves, and if we give them that opportunity I believe that that’s a step in the right direction.
KO: What would your other priorities in office be?
MB: We need to have a more positive outlook towards education. Not only working with the teachers and the teachers’ unions and working with them to get what they’re looking for and what they’re seeking, but also to reducing cost where we don’t need to be spending money as a state, to help balance out the budget while meeting the needs of the teachers.
KO: In what areas could we reduce education costs?
MB: I don’t believe there’s anything we can cut as far as teachers go. I believe teachers have taken a large brunt of cutbacks—they haven’t received pay raises, they’ve gotten larger classrooms, pay has been taken away from them. However, I believe there are areas not in the education field but extracurricular activities, such as sports, that we could work on facilitating more with booster clubs, and band boosters, which would drive money from local rather than state funds.
KO: How do you plan to give District 9 citizens a louder voice in the General Assembly?
MB: The New Hanover County Commission and the City of Wilmington need to set more regular, and even longer meetings with their state Senator—also, their representatives--so that we can understand what is going on in the cities at a local level, and in the county at a local level as well.
KO: Why do you think you’ll do a better job than your fellow candidates?
MB: I believe I understand more of what the people of this district are going through. I was a victim of the economic downturn, and I believe I understand how people are feeling at this current time, where there doesn’t seem to be light at the end of the tunnel. And I’ve lived paycheck to paycheck; I’ve had to balance my bills and decide if I’m gonna put gas in my car, or pay rent, or buy groceries. And those are things that I can take to the General Assembly, because I’ve been there, and I’ve lived that.
KO: Michael Burns, thank you for joining us today.
MB: Thank you.
Michael T. Burns is one of three Republicans competing for Thom Goolsby’s District 9 state Senate seat. A RadioShack manager and political newcomer, Burns describes himself as a “regular citizen” whose retail background has lent him the financial acumen necessary to create business, while at the same time, cutting costs.
Spurring job growth--via tax incentives for small businesses catering to tourists, for instance--can only decrease citizens’ reliance on government subsidies, and local funding sources such as booster clubs can help schools better focus their spending. This is all according to Michael Burns, who says his focus in office would be to reduce deficit spending.
"Right now, I don’t think there are any agencies that need to be cut 100%. I do believe we need to cut back on a lot of agencies—especially in spending--and work with them to better balance their budgets. I believe for a long time, we’ve run with an open check. And that can’t continue to go forward, and for us to be one of the greatest nations on the face of the earth."
Burns says hard cuts are necessary when it comes to progress, and he adds that most government bodies contain some element of “fluff.”