Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips has asked the president of the United States to help out Guilford County.
Phillips didn’t ask President Barack Obama for increased federal funding but instead requested that he help stop the federal government from impeding his local government’s success with federal red tape and legislation that reduces freedom and costs county’s citizens money.
Phillips made his requests in a letter that he slipped to Obama when Phillips was one of four area dignitaries who greeted the president as he stepped off Air Force One at Piedmont Triad International Airport on Tuesday, Oct. 11. Phillips, a staunch Republican, decided to use that opportunity to get his message to the Democratic president.
At the time, that envelope was a mystery, and when one reporter asked Phillips what was inside, he declined to say. When the Rhino Times asked him later, Phillips at first stated, “I could tell you but then I would have to kill you.” However, he then relented and shared the contents of the envelope.
It contained a letter, written on Guilford County letterhead, in which Phillips explained to the president some of the progress Guilford County has made in reducing the property tax rate, and he also wrote of how the federal bureaucracy, the immigration problem and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were weighing Guilford County down and making it difficult for the Board of Commissioners and the county’s citizens, schools and businesses to succeed.
In the letter, Phillips stated that Guilford County had been making progress but added that there were some issues involving the federal government that the county needed help with.
The letter states, “Here in Guilford County we have continued to work for Liberty for our citizens. Our County Commissioners, believing that the debtor is slave to the lender, have worked diligently to reduce the burdensome debt of our local government over the past 4 years. Eliminating hundreds of millions of debt has allowed our County the resources for other critical services for our citizens.”
It also spoke of the new privately funded Say Yes to Education initiative in Guilford County, the opening of new charter schools and ways in which the Board of Commissioners and other bodies have worked to increase school choice across Guilford County.
Phillips wrote, “By efficiently managing our County budget, we have reduced the tax burden of our citizens, lowering the property tax rate three of the past four years, while maintaining and even enhancing county services to our citizens. Returning money to the tax payer gives them the freedom to spend their money as they see fit.”
The letter then asks Obama for help: “While these local efforts to enhance the liberty of our citizens are making a difference in our County, there is still more that Government can do to give control of their lives back to the people. I ask for your help and the assistance of the Federal government to advance the cause of Liberty and freedom for every American.”
Phillips explains that one way to do that is to reduce federal red tape.
“Bureaucratic regulations from unelected executive appointees continues to be onerous,” he wrote. “We need to protect our citizens from the overreach of government agencies. The regulations of the ACA and requirements administered at the local level have placed an unfunded burden on our County resources. Those funds could and, in my view, should be used to provide additional benefits to our citizens.”
Phillips’ letter also points out the ways in which Illegal immigration has created a burden on the county’s schools, the local labor market and area healthcare providers.
It states that Guilford County has the highest poverty rate, lowest household income and highest unemployment rate of the largest North Carolina counties and said this was partially due to “the influx of unskilled, illegal aliens to our county.”
Phillips stressed that enforcing the immigration laws on the books would help address that problem.
The letter to the president concludes: “I ask that you partner with Guilford County to bring about the much needed reforms to our government so that our citizens can lead freer lives. Lives that are not burdened by a controlling central authority, that allow for the exercise of our inalienable rights to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’
“Again, welcome to Guilford County. May God continue to bless our nation, our citizens, and your family.”
The letter from Phillips, who is famously not a fan of the presidents, was very respectful. It began with, “Dear Mr. President,” and ended with “Warmest Regards,” and it also stated, “It is with great pride that I welcome you, the President of the United States of America, to Guilford County North Carolina.”
Phillips said that, after he greeted Obama, he spoke with his aid about the letter and the aid asked Phillips if he had included his contact information in case the president or White House staff needed to contact him about what was in it. Phillips said he felt as though the letter would get some consideration.
The ACA and other federal mandates have been coming up more and more in Guilford County government discussions as healthcare costs increase and problems related to immigration and other federal issues continue to mount. The Guilford County Health and Human Services Department, for instance, deals constantly with a large amount of federal red tape, and the Guilford County Finance Department has also seen an increased workload due to federal forms required for county employees to meet ACA requirements.
In recent meetings, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has spent a great deal of time talking about health care and trying to address problems that have resulted from the Affordable Care Act, which has increasingly made health care anything but affordable.
Commissioner Alan Branson said this week that the problems created by federal action or inaction affect businesses in the county. He said he’s seen his trucking business saddled with increasing healthcare costs.
“The Affordable Care Act is, in my opinion, out of control,” Branson said. “I’ve watched our healthcare cost go up 28 percent, 23 percent and 33 percent in the last three years.”
But that’s only one area where the federal government is costing his business, he said. For instance, his trucking company is having to spend about $60,000 for federally mandated electronic truck tracking devices that must be installed for 2017.
“The profit margin is pretty thin as it is,” he said of the trucking industry.
He also said strings attached to federal dollars in the school system have been a burden on Guilford County’s schools and said that the ACA has been driving costs up everywhere.
Branson said he wasn’t aware that Phillips had given Obama the letter but he hoped it could help bring some relief to the county from federal mandates and wrong-headed legislation such as Obamacare.
In addition to Phillips asking the president for help in his letter, he also wrote about the history of Guilford County.
The letter gave Obama a short history of the county and recalled March 1781, when farmers local and militias, soldiers and Gen. Nathanael Greene fought for Independence from the British at the Battle of Guilford Court House and it points out the City of Greensboro was named for that same general.
The letter states, “The battle inflicted such damage to Lord Cornwallis and the Redcoats that they limped east to Yorktown where the War was won.”
The letter to the president also recounts how, on Feb. 1, 1960, at the downtown Greensboro Woolworth’s lunch counter, Guilford County became the starting point of the sit-in movement and “advanced our Nation toward the equal liberty for all men and women, regardless of race.”