N.C. Policy Watch is chatting with some of the newest members of the N.C. General Assembly to offer a bit more insight on who they are and what they plan on doing this session in Raleigh. This will be an ongoing feature, with the goal of profiling all the new members. Haven’t been contacted for your profile yet? New legislators can contact reporter Sarah Ovaska at email@example.com.
Name: State Sen. Ben Clark
Occupation: information technology contractor working out of the U.S. Army’s Fort Bragg. Retired Air Force.
Lives in: Hoke County
From: Hollywood Heights neighborhood in Fayetteville
Family: Divorced, has a grown daughter
Hobbies: Doesn’t have much free time, but enjoys hiking and being in the outdoors.
Previous elected offices, if any: No.
Why’d you run for office? “I wanted to become more a part of the community, and play a role where I could have a positive impact. I wanted to be a contributor.”
What are the major challenges this year? “One of them, we just dealt with, is the Medicaid expansion bill. Health care is going to be a big challenge. We’ll just have to work with the federal government as they set up the exchange for us.” Also interested in tax reform.
What is one specific issue that you’ think needs addressing? Jobs.
(Clark was one of four Senate Democrats to vote in favor of unemployment insurance restructuring, which cuts the amount of benefits jobless workers will collect and raises some costs for participating businesses as a plan to pay back $2.5 billion borrowed from the federal government in the height of the recession.)
“Jobs are big issues and that will be impacted by what we do….. It (unemployment insurance) was something that needed to be done, we needed reform. Our fund doesn’t have money it. There was unanimity in the recognition of the need. It could have had a negative impact in our ability to attract businesses. Something had to be done to get the albatross off the backs of the businesses.”
Wishes he had more power in Legislature to effect change, but as a Democrat, “we don’t have the authority to do things as we like.”
How do you feel about these issues?
- Voter ID? Open to a voter ID bill that would allow people without identification to vote, but not have their votes counted as a provisional ballot. “What we need is voter integrity and protection. There are other options that are just as viable — why can’t we take photos at the polls and then you have a record of who actually turned up?”
- Medicaid expansion. Was in favor. (Voted against recent legislation that will not expand Medicaid to group of low-income North Carolinians.)
- North Carolina’s public schools’ funding? “We must always make sure we provide a sound basic education for our students. We do have options outside of what we consider the traditional public schools.” Wants charters and other schools to be held to standard of sound, basic education for all.
- Tax reform? “I’m looking forward to tax reform. This is something that needs to be done in a deliberate way. Regardless of whatever model we go to, there are always people that are vested in a system that may oppose whatever is proposed….. You don’t overburden thousands who are more on the lower end of the economic spectrum. More of their income probably goes to consumption and we need to be careful about how we do this.”
What historical or other figures have influenced your politics?
No one. “I formulate my own way of doing things.”
How do you describe your politics?
What’s something about you most people don’t know:
“People tend to think I’m a lot younger than I am. I’m 53, but I can walk into a room, especially when my hair is cut close, they assume I’m 40 years old. I’m retired from the military and I retired as a lieutenant colonel. I’ve been around the block a few times.”
Legislative office phone: (919) 733-9349