Local Politics

Candidates' Tuition Proposals Require Maneuvering

Posted April 23, 2008 5:47 p.m. EDT
Updated April 24, 2008 4:29 p.m. EDT

— The two leading Democratic candidates for governor have promised to provide college tuition as part of their platforms. But putting their plans in place would take plenty of political maneuvering.

Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue wants to expand a current scholarship program for low-income students at state universities or community colleges. Meanwhile, State Treasurer Richard Moore wants to use money from the national tobacco litigation settlement to provide two free years at community college for every high school graduate in the state.

Perdue said restructuring the state budget process to make it more transparent would free up money for her plan.

"I said I would have several sources of funds. One is the good old-fashioned way of finding it in the budget," she said during a Tuesday night debate with Moore. "(We want) to just make sure that finances are never a barrier for anyone in the state to go to school."

Perdue has also suggested using some tobacco settlement money from Golden LEAF, the Rocky Mount-based foundation that disburses the funds for economic development projects.

Moore said drawing interest off the $650 million Golden LEAF has in the bank would fund his proposal.

"I think that's a really smart use of the money," he said.

Golden LEAF President Valeria Lee is not opposed to talking to Perdue or Moore about their programs. But she believes in the Golden LEAF Foundation's mission – supporting community colleges, creating jobs in rural areas and some scholarships – and wants to see that continue.

"I would say most of the money has gone toward work force preparedness," Lee said. "It would absolutely be a void" if money were diverted.

The governor appoints one-third of the Golden LEAF board members, so whoever wins the election in November would have some clout with the foundation.