Former Govs. Hunt, Holshouser join 'Fix the Debt' effort

The Associated Press

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RALEIGH — Two former North Carolina governors said Tuesday everyone’s going to have to make some sacrifices for America’s leaders to find a pathway to reduce the national debt that also brings long-term growth and stability.

Former Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt and former Republican Gov. Jim Holshouser, speaking at the launching of the North Carolina chapter of the national Fix the Debt Campaign, urged President Barack Obama and members of Congress to stabilize and ultimately lower a $16 trillion debt.

“If we don’t address the debt, our economy will suffer dramatic repercussions, including slower growth and ... eventually a fiscal crisis which must and can be avoided,” said Bob Ingram, the former chief executive GlaxoSmithKline and a co-chairman of the North Carolina effort, at a Raleigh news conference. The other co-chairman is former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl.

Other leaders of the bipartisan North Carolina chapter’s steering committee said leaders in Washington must first avoid the “fiscal cliff” of automatic tax increases and cuts to defense and domestic programs taking effect Jan. 1 unless an alternative deficit reduction plan is enacted. Fiscal analysts say the “fiscal cliff” would send the country back into recession.

The Fix the Debt campaign was founded by former Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles of Charlotte, the former president of the University of North Carolina system and White House chief of staff. They led a national panel that developed a blueprint to cut the $16 trillion national debt that included tax increases and spending cuts. The campaign, however, doesn’t endorse any particular option.

Holshouser, the governor from 1973 to 1977, said finding a debt solution already has been a painful process and “it’s probably going to require a painful result” if the country wants to avoid fiscal crises like those in Greece and Spain.

Hunt, who served as the state’s chief executive for 16 years through 2001, said “everyone in Washington worthy of representing the American people must be willing to compromise.”

The campaign’s North Carolina chapter plans to seek to influence policy in Washington through grassroots organizing and other efforts. The national campaign says more than 311,000 people have signed an online petition. There are similar efforts in more than 15 other states.

About a dozen people, many representing liberal-leaning groups, stood outside the hotel where the news conference was held. Any solution should require that tax cuts approved during President George W. Bush’s administration expire, said Justin Guillory with one of the groups, Progress NC Action.