Perdue in D.C.: 'More optimistic' on economy

Gov. Bev Perdue says she's "feeling more optimistic" after a weekend of meetings with economists and policy experts in Washington, D.C.

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Laura Leslie

Gov. Bev Perdue held a short conference call today with a handful of reporters, talking about her D.C. trip that’s set to wrap up Tuesday afternoon.

The occasion for the trip is the Winter Meeting of the National Governors’ Association. The governors meet twice a year for policy discussions on issues common to all states face, like transportation, education, and health care costs.

Perdue said innovation was the most-talked about issue at this summit. “I think the common fabric throughout all of the sessions is about the need to be globally competitive,” especially in manufacturing.

“We make things so well here,” Perdue said. “With all of the challenges with technology, we need to have a better educated workforce.”

Perdue said she’s “feeling more optimistic” about the economy after hearing from four economists over the weekend, including Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who said the long-awaited economic recovery is underway. But Perdue cautioned, “They say it’s like second quarter of a football game. It’s still fairly fragile.”

Perdue said decision-makers in Washington and Raleigh “need to avoid any kind of policies that would be an impediment to job growth” this year, like raising income taxes on small businesses or cutting out R&D tax credits. She also touted her proposal to lower the corporate income tax rate, and her Capital Access program for small businesses. “We don’t need to step away from anything,” she said, “We need to focus on it all and define our strengths.

Other issues: 
Exports:  Perdue said she talked with Chinese officials about building an economic exchange. “I’ve never focused a whole lot about how you build an export state,” she said. “North Carolina needs to be much more aggressive on exports. We just need to figure out how to do that better. So that’s on my to-do list for Commerce when I get back."
The state’s unemployment debt:  Perdue said the budget proposal President Obama sent to Congress included a provision that would freeze the debt and forgive the interest on it for two years. “I feel very hopeful we can broker some kind of compromise on that.”  Legislators may seek to raise the cost of unemployment insurance to pay off the $2.47 billion dollar debt, but Perdue said she believes freezing the debt for two years would give the unemployment fund time to recover sufficiently to repay the debt without an increase. 
Federal beach renourishment funds: “Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Perdue said, but she mentioned that one budget proposal would cut those “discretionary spending” items completely. “That would be very damaging. I’m also being told that would be the federal match for all our clean water projects. That would be much more damaging than just beach renourishment.”
Broadband expansion: “I’ll do anything I can do that the state can afford” to expand broadband to rural areas, Perdue said, but added that the state “can’t do it without the federal funds,” which are uncertain at this point.
Senate Bill 8, Charter School Reform:  “I’m actually okay with it. I think it’ll make a difference…if it suits the needs of locals, I think it’s the right thing to do, if it helps the kids – it’s all about the kids.”


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