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Ask Anything: 10 questions with Gov. Bev Perdue

Gov. Bev Perdue answers your questions about pay cuts, the Easley investigation, illegal immigrants, taxes, the lottery and much more.

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Gov. Beverly Perdue
Editor's Note: Gov. Bev Perdue is the final guest in our Ask Anything series, which started in April 2008 and has featured more than 70 guests in various fields. Thanks to our readers who submitted thousands of great questions and suggested many fascinating guests to feature.
When state employees were given a 1/2 percent pay cut, did you also take that same cut? And were you required to take the 10 hours of furlough time that the rest of us were required to take? – Jennifer Stevens, Goldsboro

Jennifer, thanks for asking. I took the same pay cut everyone else did, and I urged all state officials – including those who weren’t required to take the cut – to voluntarily cut their pay to share the burden as much as possible during these tough times.

With the state facing the largest budget shortfall in our history, the ½ percent pay cut was one of the tough decisions I had to make to keep state government running and avoid massive layoffs of state employees. It was not a decision I wanted to make. But like a family would do, we all hurt a little bit, we stood tall and we kept going.

State employees are the backbone of state government. I am grateful for everything state employees do every day, and I know that – as we make our way through this global recession – a better day will come for state employees and for everyone in North Carolina.

What proposals do you have for implementing a merit-based pay system for state workers? – Keith Barham, Wake Forest

I’ve asked the Office of State Personnel to assemble a task force to look at how we pay our state employees and to see whether there are ways we can make it work better.

We’ll work together with state employees, managers, supervisors, the General Assembly, the State Employees Association of North Carolina and others to develop a pay system that meets the needs of our state employees and of the people of North Carolina.

Since taking office, you have had the unfortunate task of asking state agencies to cut back and give back to adjust for the shortfalls in the state budget. How then do you justify a trip to China for you and members of your staff? – Betsie Huben, Clayton

We’re going to Asia with one mission: to grow jobs in North Carolina. I’ve said since my first day in office that my No. 1 priority is creating and saving jobs in North Carolina.

We are competing on a global level for jobs and businesses, and our economy will be left behind if we do not act aggressively and form partnerships with our major international economic partners, including China and Japan.

More than half of the trip’s expenses will be paid for with non-state funds, and we will make every dollar go as far as possible.

As second and fourth largest trading partners, China and Japan represent significant growth opportunities for our state – especially in an economic downturn. When this recession ends, North Carolina must be poised to come out with strong economic relationships that allow us to create jobs in this state. This trip will help us do just that.

One of your electoral stances was to decrease the number of years of service from 30 years for local law enforcement to 25 years before we were eligible for retirement, especially seeing as how most other states are a mere 20 years. MANY of us voted for you because of this. Why have you not stayed true to your word and instead never mentioned this subject since becoming our great governor of N.C.? – Daniel Pickler, Rockfish/Hope Mills

I’ve always had a strong commitment to the brave men and women of law enforcement. I’ve seen firsthand the dedication, commitment and sacrifice law enforcement officers show every day in service to our communities and our state.

That’s why I was so proud to receive the endorsements from many law enforcement organizations, including the Police Benevolent Association, the Troopers Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Sheriff Police Alliance during last year’s campaign.

And that’s why earlier this year I signed Senate Bill 411, which helps families of law enforcement officers killed on duty receive the financial support their loved one earned in service to the people of North Carolina.

The 25-year retirement issue is important to me, and it’s something we’ll look at in the next legislative session. We owe our law enforcement officers the best life beyond the badge that they can achieve.

Gov. Perdue, you have remained strangely quiet during the Easley investigation. Why haven't you spoke out on this subject about the corruption in state government, the state government that you have been in thick of for many years? – John Ragan, Efland

Let me be clear: I’m not only committed to getting to the bottom of these concerns, I’m committed to resetting state government – making it more efficient, transparent and accountable to the people – starting within my own administration.

I will accept nothing short of the best from our state employees, and just like you I expect our elected officials to serve the people with integrity, honesty and the highest ethical standards.

That’s why I have signed executive orders to take the politics out of decision-making at DOT, create an e-mail retention policy to preserve public records and ban all state employees from receiving gifts from organizations that do business with the state.

I believe it’s critical for the people of North Carolina that we have a thorough and public review of these issues. That’s why my administration has made public thousands of documents that were previously unavailable and have launched outside investigations at the State Highway Patrol and the DMV.

I’m confident that the ongoing investigations of former Gov. Easley will reveal the truth about what happened.

I voted for you thinking you would be a person to hold the coast of N.C. as a sanctuary. Now you have formed a committee to investigate off shore drilling. I vehemently oppose the drilling. I am very disappointed that you have an ear to the money makers. Why not more wind or solar? You have read the statistics, off shore drilling is not worth the time, money or ENERGY!!! – Sherry Wilshire, Chapel Hill

You’re right to be concerned about the impact of offshore drilling on the North Carolina coast. We must not limit our options to pursue alternative energy solutions, but we must make sure sound science and thorough examination of the risks drive our decisions.

That’s why I recently created the Governor’s Scientific Advisory Panel on Offshore Energy so that I can hear from the experts and scientists on the potential risks and rewards of all our offshore energy resources – including oil, natural gas and wind.

I’m from New Bern, so I know how important the coast is to the economy and the culture of Eastern North Carolina and of the entire state. North Carolina’s coast is a natural treasure, and we must be good stewards of its rich resources.

Gov. Perdue, to effectively balance the budget, your administration moved funds from the lottery system surplus which was earmarked for North Carolina schools. How does your administration plan on putting the money back and what implication does your administration foresee with the recent judgment of moving funds from voter approved expenditures such as the lottery system? – Ralph Davis, Raleigh

When the national recession created a shortfall of billions of dollars, I had to turn over every stone to pay North Carolina’s bills – to pay teachers, to keep schools and other core services running. It’s my constitutional obligation as governor to balance the state budget.

We repaid the lottery funds in full several months ago, a promise I made when we were forced to use the lottery funds. As a result, North Carolina public schools received $37.6 million in repaid lottery funds at the beginning of the school year.

I disagree with the judge’s ruling about the governor’s ability to take steps to keep a balanced state budget, and I plan to appeal the decision. Balancing the budget is my constitutional obligation, and I must have the tools to do so.

Recently, the state’s AAA bond rating – the highest rating possible – was reaffirmed by the three rating agencies, and North Carolina is one of only seven states to hold that rating. Strong and effective budget management are critical to keeping that highest rating, which saves taxpayer money by keeping North Carolina’s interest rates low.

Do you support the idea of allowing undocumented aliens to state universities? – Nelson Smith, Durham County

It doesn’t make sense to me that we would educate students in public universities who are not legally allowed to work here.

I said the same thing about community colleges two weeks ago, when the State Board of Community Colleges voted to allow illegal immigrants to attend community colleges in North Carolina if they paid out-of-state tuition rates.

This is an issue that is being addressed piecemeal by every state across the country and ultimately must be resolved by the federal government.

When you appointed a CEO for the Department of Education didn't you know it was not in keeping with the state constitution? And what is being done to pay back the money for that position? – Allen Glasgow, Halifax

I made the decision to appoint Dr. Bill Harrison as CEO of North Carolina’s public schools and as chair of the State Board of Education to bring more clarity and accountability to the system outlined in the state constitution.

Dr. Harrison has a tremendous track record of leadership in North Carolina’s public schools. Following the court’s decision regarding the Department of Public Instruction, Dr. Harrison decided to step down from his position at the Department and to continue his role as chairman of the State Board of Education – and he has volunteered to do so without pay.

North Carolina’s public schools need strong leadership in order to compete in the 21st century, and Dr. Harrison and I will continue to work closely with Superintendent June Atkinson to transform the way we educate our kids.

Since North Carolina is the highest taxed state in the Southeast, when are the elected officials going to reduce the tax burden placed on the residents instead of finding new ways to tax us? – Troy Jenkins, Sharpsburg

Much of North Carolina’s tax code was established decades ago, when our state’s economy was very different than today. Modernizing the tax code is critical for long term planning and can help us lower tax rates.

I, along with the General Assembly, am reviewing the tax code and a tax reform plan for North Carolina. We must ensure that we review the issue publicly and thoroughly to get it right and that public hearings are held throughout the state on this important proposal.

But in the meantime, there’s a lot more we can do to make sure every tax dollar is used as efficiently and effectively as possible – to make sure taxpayers are getting a better bang for their buck. My BRAC Budget Reform Commission will make innovative recommendations to eliminate unnecessary or unsuccessful programs, to consolidate where possible and to streamline the way state government works.

We will not shy away from making politically tough decisions that make state government work better for the people of North Carolina, and I look forward to working with the BRAC Commission to meet these challenges head-on.

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