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Perdue, Senate leader square off on jobs

Posted April 7, 2011 4:02 a.m. EDT
Updated April 7, 2011 7:30 p.m. EDT

— Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue on Thursday took on Republican leaders at the legislature on the issue of who's best at creating jobs in North Carolina's recovering economy.

During a news conference at the state Department of Commerce, Perdue said lawmakers are spending too much time debating bills tied to social issues and not enough on boosting the state economy.

"I've been there, done that where you come and say, 'It's my turn. I'm going to change the world.'" she said of the large freshman class in the General Assembly. "I can relate to that. I'm not criticizing that. I'm just asking people to put all those aside – all those ideas that they think are so critical for North Carolina – and let's get the real work of the people done.

"Somebody has to be the adult and stand up. We've really, really got to focus on jobs and education," she said.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger offered a pre-emptive response at his own news conference an hour earlier, blaming Perdue and the policies put in place when Democrats controlled the legislature for the loss of 100,000 jobs statewide in the last two years.

"North Carolina has a lot of great things going for it. The policies of state government are not one of them," Berger said.

Although the statewide unemployment rate dropped to 9.7 percent in February from 11.4 percent a year earlier, more than 435,000 people in North Carolina are still looking for a job.

"It appears to me the one job Gov. Perdue is worried about is her own," Berger said.

Perdue has been on a "jobs tour" around the state during the past two weeks in which she's also talked about the importance of public education. She said Thursday that her policies are working, noting she took office at the height of the worst U.S. economic recession in decades.

"What I'm doing and what I have been doing for 2½ years is all about jobs and education," she said.

Berger said it will take time to get the state economy back on solid footing, but the Republican majority will create jobs through lower taxes, tort reform, regulatory reform and other programs now in the works.

"We have taken substantial initial steps," he said. "The most important thing we can do to create jobs in North Carolina is to get the state's checkbook balanced."

Freshman Rep. Tom Murry, R-Wake, introduced a bill this week aimed at helping smaller businesses grow.

"I'd rather see 10 companies create 100 jobs (each) than to try and find that one diamond-in-the-rough company that creates 1,000 jobs," Murry said.

The Republicans and Perdue have agreed that lowering the corporate income tax rate would improve the economic environment. The House is expected to begin rolling out portions of its budget proposal next week.

"Let us see what's in the budget that focuses on jobs and education or what might do irreparable harm to North Carolina," Perdue said.