Sen. Thom Tillis weighs in on Charlotte transit, immigration, student loan forgiveness

Sen. Thom Tillis weighs in on Charlotte transit, immigration, student loan forgiveness

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis sits down for a conversation with Janet LaBar, the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance president and CEO. Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

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U.S. Senator Thom Tillis sat down with some of Charlotte’s top business leaders Tuesday and touted being part of “every bipartisan effort in Congress.”

Most recently, the senator supported the bipartisan infrastructure package and the Chips and Science Act, which contributed to Chatham County landing a major economic development deal with Wolfspeed.

  • Now, during his second term in office, Tillis is working on the same-sex marriage bill, which will codify marriage equality and, for his fellow Republicans, likely include some clarification about not infringing upon religious freedoms.

During the chat with the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance in Uptown, he addressed a range of hot topics. Here were five of them:

On a bipartisan immigration bill: “The people who are for open borders are going to criticize my Democratic colleagues. The ‘put-them-all-on-a-boat-and-send-them-home’ crowd, from my party, are going to criticize me. I’m fine with that, as long as we can produce an outcome.”

  • Tillis said lawmakers will propose text in the next month or so. He spoke of aiming to secure the border while also creating pathways to citizenship that can help fill worker shortages.
Ed Driggs addresses Thom Tillis at the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

City Council member Ed Driggs asks U.S. Senator Thom Tillis how Charlotte can improve its chances at winning federal investment and participation. Photo: Alexandria Sands/Axios

On Charlotte’s Transportation Mobility Plan: “If you want to differentiate yourself from virtually everybody else, demonstrate how local, county, regional entities have come together … prove that the investments from the federal government are going to be better spent.”

  • Charlotte is aiming to bring to life its estimated $13.5-billion transit and mobility plan, which includes the Silver Line light rail.
  • Councilman Ed Driggs, the newly appointed chair of the transportation committee, asked Tillis directly about scoring federal funding for its ambitions: “Can city council camp outside your office?” he joked. “What’s the best way that we can improve our chances?”
  • Driggs said the plan is expanding to be a regional one; Tillis said he suspects a regional approach will resonate with the legislature.

On bringing another Democratic or Republican national convention to Charlotte: “I’m gonna help anybody that’s gonna bring 100,000 people to Charlotte, and spent a lot of money, get here.”

  • Tillis said he first promoted Charlotte as the DNC host city for 2012 and years later, he sat down with Mayor Vi Lyles about doing the same thing with the RNC in 2020.
  • The Republican event was continuously debated by Democratic city leaders. But when it happened, the convention was drastically scaled down anyway because of COVID-19.

On Biden’s $400-billion student loan forgiveness plan: “It’s inherently unfair to take somebody like me — who paid my way through college, who paid for my children’s tuition — and to suddenly say that this community college, ultimately four-year-degree graduate has retired the debt of somebody who graduated from Yale.”

  • Earlier this week, new estimates revealed efforts to erase federal student debt could cost $400 billion.
  • Tillis said he’d rather see $400 billion spent elsewhere, if at all, which led him into his next point:

On the economy: “We are in a recession.”

  • The Federal Reserve is expected to hike interest rates twice more by the end of the year.
  • “It usually takes about six months or so for the economy to actually respond to that, which suggests to me next year is going to be a very difficult year,” Tillis said.
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