Gov. Bev Perdue sat down with us Tuesday for a one-on-one interview on topics from Valerie Jarrett's visit to Charlotte Wednesday to teacher cuts and Irene aid.
Jarrett, one of Obama's closest advisors, is the keynote speaker at Gov. Bev Perdue’s annual conference for women, taking place Wednesday at Charlotte’s convention center.
Valerie Jarrett is the latest in a string of Obama officials who’ve visited the state in recent weeks. And the Queen City will be the site of the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2012. But Perdue says her keynote invitation wasn’t political.
“She’s just a woman who’s really entered a traditionally dominated male environment," Perdue said of Jarrett. "She’s succeeded, she’s worked hard her whole life. She’s had to give up some things – you know, there’s been the win-loss ratio in her life. And I believe we’ll be inspired by what she has to say."
Perdue also addressed early estimates of state costs for Irene relief. According to Recovery Czar Bob Etheridge, the unmet need for assistance for housing and small businesses is at least $135 million. That's a preliminary number that's likely to climb until FEMA's application deadline of Nov. 30th - and it doesn't include uninsured agricultural damages estimated at half a billion, or the $30 million 1-to-3 match the state is required to put up to secure federal disaster funds.
Perdue said she'll handle the $30 million out of emergency funds, but will seek to work with lawmakers to find the balance of the funds.
"We’re going to do whatever we can, whatever there are resources to do. There is nothing worse than going into one of these counties that have been hit so hard now, and seeing lives that are totally disrupted and seeing kids without a winter coat as it begins to get cold," she said.
Perdue also said the state's educational system can't withstand any more spending cuts.
House and Senate leaders insist their budget funded every teacher and teaching assistant position in the state. But that doesn’t mesh with figures from the Department of Public Instruction, which says more than 1800 teachers and TAs have lost their jobs. Perdue says anyone could – and should – have seen that coming.
"You can’t make a 300 million dollar cut in education and not feel certain that there are going to be positions eliminated in public schools," Perdue said. "It’s just disingenuous. Folks just need to stand up and tell the truth about it."
"Anybody who could think it through knew that the ultimate result going to be teachers and teachers' assistants and school personnel losing their jobs. And that's exactly what's happened," she said. Web only: Perdue calls for more education funding
Perdue said the cuts wouldn't have been necessary if GOP leaders had been willing to consider extending a temporary one-cent sales tax, a move some polls showed more than 7 out of 10 voters would have supported. Republicans refused, saying the one billion dollars in revenue raised by the tax would do more good in the hands of the private sector than in state government.
Since the tax expired, though, private sector job growth has been unable to keep pace with government job losses, and the state's unemployment has climbed even as the national rate has declined.
Perdue says 2012 will be worse if legislators don't find more money for schools.
"Many of our school systems had remaining federal [Recovery Act] dollars which they used this year to fill the holes that would have been there from the cuts the General Assembly took," she said. "Next year, they don’t have that luxury. There’s not one extra federal dollar from the recovery in north Carolina. They’ve all been spent – the law required it to be spent."
Watch the unedited interview above.