What would your top three priorities be if elected lieutenant governor?
The biggest current challenges facing North Carolina are jobs and education. The papers tell us that the economy is improving, but for far too many North Carolinians, that is not true. We say we care about education, but every two years, the politicians in Raleigh have partisan fights over Band-Aid solutions.
I believe the lieutenant governor can play an important role in economic development and attracting new jobs to North Carolina. During these tough times especially, we cannot simply abandon those most affected. Job creation should be our top focus, but we also need to continue to support extended unemployment benefits and do what we can within budgetary constraints to help retrain workers for the new jobs. One of the things we must do is expand cooperative efforts between employers and our community college system.
State government continues to apply short-term fixes to serious problems. We need to reform the tax code, to return fairness and provide sustained funding for our schools and avoid the every-other-year scramble to find temporary solutions. We must assure that every child in North Carolina has access to a quality education.
Finally, in order to do these and the other things we want to do, we must change the tone in Raleigh. In my short time in the state Senate, I learned too much about the politics that divide us and keep us divided. I also learned much about the cozy relationships of Raleigh insiders. I want to open up government, increase transparency and access for everyday North Carolinians and be a voice for reason and decency.
Given the current state of the economy, as lieutenant governor, what would you do to add jobs and boost the economy here?
I will be North Carolina’s biggest advocate for new jobs and help current employers as they try to create new jobs. And I will fight to protect the social safety net.
I would continue to work to keep the small business tax rate low, to make us competitive with our surrounding neighbors, specifically South Carolina and Virginia. We have to encourage the economic viability and expansion of our small businesses, since they are the primary economic engines of our state.
Education is a primary attraction for businesses to move to North Carolina. We must invest in our early childhood education so that we develop children from cradle to career.
We can help develop our labor force by coupling business sectors with matching community colleges and universities. For example, when Hewlett-Packard located a facility in Columbus, Ga., the local community college and university worked with them to develop two- and four-year programs specifically to meet HP standards and produced over 200 employees to fill those jobs when HP opened.
I would advocate revamping the state’s employer incentive programs. We must ensure that the rules are clear to how long the incentives would last (with a very specific end date) and what benchmarks will trigger incentives (meaning how many jobs, how much money placed back into the surrounding economy). I would have a "claw back" measure. If the employer does not meet the benchmarks, then the state could retake its money.
Do you support the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman?
I oppose Amendment One. It is unnecessary, because we already have a law that does that. It is too risky, likely outlawing all kinds of domestic partnership benefits and putting the health care of thousands of families at risk. Over 80 percent of the Fortune 500 offers domestic partnership benefits to their employees; Amendment One could prohibit that. Those companies are likely to look elsewhere. In these tough times, the last thing we need to do is run employers off.
Do you support raising the sales tax in North Carolina to restore cuts in education funding?
I support restoring the cuts in education funding, but I do not support the sales tax increase. It is time to stop applying Band-Aid solutions to our serious problems. We need to reform the tax code, to return fairness and provide assured funding for our schools and to stop the every-other-year scramble for temporary solutions.