Bill Brawley recalls a point in 2015 when leadership within the N.C. General Assembly sought to change the way the state distributes sales tax revenue, potentially costing Mecklenburg County upwards of $65 million in 2016.
Despite these being members of his political party, Brawley could not in good conscience support a measure that would hurt his district. Brawley, who chaired the N.C. House finance committee at the time, fought the measure. He found an ally in Gov. Pat McCrory, who intended to veto the bill if it reached his desk. They were successful.
“I did not have to have enough votes to defeat the bill,” Brawley said. “I just had to have enough votes to sustain the veto.”
Brawley served four terms in the N.C. House. He was edged out of his District 103 seat in 2018 by Democratic challenger Rachel Hunt. He’s running again on the premise of good policy that benefits his district.
Stopping the redistribution of sales tax was a huge win for Brawley in 2015, but his most significant legislation was the Strategic Transportation and Investments law, which accelerated the funding of several highways in the Charlotte region.
The 2013 bill prioritized district, regional and state transportation projects based on factors such as reducing traffic congestion and improving safety. This removed politics from the funding formula.
“The idea of STI was to build the roads where they needed to be built and do it with data,” Brawley said.
Brawley has a reputation for having a deep understanding of issues and clarifying policy. But his legislation has a tendency to take on the theme of stopping people from getting picked on.
This dates back to his first bill in 2011, which allowed citizens to recover legal fees if they successfully sued a municipality. He sponsored a bill that would prevent women from facing prostitution charges if they were forced into having sex against their will. He made it easier for child victims of trafficking to get help from the Department of Health & Human Services as abused children.
He’s also worked to keep taxes in check, repealing the privilege license tax and land transfer tax.
When Matthews leaders were frustrated with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools about not addressing overcrowding, they asked for Brawley’s help. He got a bill through that allowed Matthews and Mint Hill to open charter schools.
Matthews leaders have opted not to take advantage of the legislation. They’re trying to work more collaboratively with CMS to address overcrowding after the district threatened not to build schools in town.
Brawley said there’s misinformation out there about state education funding under the Republican majority.
“We did expand education funding beyond the place where we found it when we took control,” he said.
He credits Republicans for cutting taxes and resisting the urge to spend savings on “insert policy here, insert project here.” The result, he says, was the flexibility of enduring four hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic to respond to increased needs without making major budget cuts.