Elections » Candidate Questionnaires

Bev Perdue

Candidate for N.C. Governor

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Bev Perdue
Party: Democrat
Date of Birth: 1/14/47
Campaign website: www.bevperdue.com
Occupation & Employer: Lieutenant Governor, State of North Carolina
Years lived in North Carolina: Over 30



1. What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina? What are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

I believe that the overarching central issue facing North Carolina is whether we will move forward together as a state or succumb to the forces that continue to pull us apart along economic, racial, and cultural lines.

I am proud of the progress that North Carolina has made in many respects over the last few decades. But at best we are halfway home and have a long way to go.

Our progress has been impressive compared to many other Southern states. But it has been easier to rise than it will be in coming years because we were starting from such a low rank nationally. Even by the time of the 1960s, North Carolina had just about the lowest per capita income in the nation, most of our workforce had not come close to gaining a high school degree, one third of our population was still mired in poverty – and all these statistics were obviously much worse for our African-American population.

Although on one hand conditions in our state have changed for the better, on the other hand too much has stayed the same. North Carolina’s median income level remains below the national average and our poverty level remains well above national averages. Our high school graduation and dropout rates continue to be worse than the national average – and even further below where we need them to be in order for us to comprehensively compete in the 21st century global economy.

At the same time, North Carolina is facing new challenges. Some of these challenges stem from our relative success and growth as a state – such as growing traffic congestion, the wear and tear on our transportation infrastructure, sprawl in our communities (see 6b), and the exhaustion of local water systems in such metropolitan areas as the Triangle. Others challenges arise because prior reform efforts have failed – such as repair of the state’s badly tattered mental health system (see 6f).

Most elected officials like to govern during good times when the choices are not hard and they can claim credit for lots of things. But as evidenced by what has been happening on Wall Street lately, our nation appears to be in for some very rough economic times. By the same token, however, I think we have no other choice but to take some very bold progressive steps as a state. Otherwise we will be stuck in comparative mediocrity or return to our old position at the bottom of America’s ladder.

The early 21st Century is not a time when North Carolina can be satisfied with standing still. We will have to run harder simply to stay in place. And while I know that if elected I will be our first woman Governor, my personal goal goes much further: I plan to be the most progressive Governor in our state’s history.

While the rest of my answers will provide more detail and cover other important issues, my top three priorities can be summarized as follows:

  • Taking unprecedented steps down the road to quality and affordable health coverage for all North Carolinians. I am the only candidate in either party who is committed to covering whole families – parents as well as children – who are struggling to stay or get out of poverty. It is a moral outrage that parents making just above half the poverty level are too rich for Medicaid coverage in North Carolina. I am proud that, according to Adam Searing of the North Carolina Health Access Coalition, my health care platform features “the most significant changes in health care access in North Carolina in, quite literally, decades.” All the other candidates, including my Democratic opponent, have taken what Adam Searing and other health care advocates have rightly called “the standard right-wing line” that we cannot afford such bold steps. I describe my plan for expanded health coverage in my answer to 6b. And you can read my Making Health Quality Care Coverage Available to All North Carolinians at(www.bevperdue.com/healthcare) See also 6b.

  • Opening As Wide As Possible the Doors of Educational Opportunity. My parents never finished high school. Although my father was one of the very few lucky ones who still financially succeeded, he and my mother still preached that education was the difference-maker in most people’s lives. Due to his economic good fortune, I had a way to go to college and then earn a Ph.D. But I know that the dream of a college education is spiraling out of reach for children from modest and hard working families across our state. That is why I have developed my ambitious College Promise initiative to assure deserving public school students that lack of family income will not be a barrier to earning a college degree.
  • My first steps will be to extend adequate financial assistance so that high school graduates from families up to 200% of poverty can earn a four-year degree at any public university debt-free and high school graduates from families up to 300% of poverty can go full-time to any community college in our state completely free, without paying tuition or other expenses. I am proud to be the only candidate who is committed to enhancing higher educational opportunity in such a comprehensive fashion for high school graduates from low and modest-income families.

  • Developing a stronger, more fair and sustainable economy. I do not agree with my Democratic primary opponent Richard Moore that “It would be a wonderful thing to say to businesses around the world. Come to North Carolina, grow your business, we’re not going to tax you.” (For more, see 6g). My goal as North Carolina’s next Governor will be to diversify our economy and make it more entrepreneurial.
  • My agenda focuses on targeted tax relief for our existing small businesses; more grant assistance for promising start-up ventures and in development of clean and green jobs in the alternative energy sectors. My Main Street Solutions initiative will also help stimulate the economies of our small towns and rural areas [www.bevperdue.com/buildingnewNC.asp].

    At the same time my Working Families Agenda is designed to boost the pocketbooks and the economic purchasing power of North Carolina families who are struggling to make ends meet. (For more, see 6a).

    Making our economy more diverse, stimulating the economies of our small towns and rural areas, and boosting the purchasing power of our working families – those are far more effective than eliminating the corporate income tax on our wealthiest corporations.

    I have also come to believe that a major barrier blocking our progress in these policy areas is the dominance of private, special-interest money in our election campaigns. I have lived with this system for a number of years and have strived to play by the rules. But like the voters, I am fed up with it and know it needs to be replaced.

    That is why I am now committed to instituting a Public Endowment for Positive Gubernatorial Campaigns. This is an innovative idea originally proposed by Durham’s former State Senator Wib Gulley and also championed at the national level by such reformers as former Vice-President Al Gore and Senator Russ Feingold. I am proud that major reform groups throughout the state have praised my championing of the Public Endowment approach. To read my proposal, go to [www.bevperdue.com/buildingnewNC.asp].

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you’ve identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.

Health care is the issue that propelled me into running for public office. As a hospital administrator, in my hometown of New Bern, I saw our system too often failing our most vulnerable citizens – especially the elderly and the young – and decided to do something about it.

That is why I am very proud of my accomplishments on health care for children and the elderly.

For example, as Senate Appropriations Chair in 1997, I led the legislative effort to institute our S-CHIP program which has now resulted in the coverage of more than 100,000 uninsured children from working families. Working with such advocates as Action for Children, I was also proud to help lead the successful effort last year to expand eligibility to children from families up to 300% of poverty. And as Chair of the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, I led development of Senior Care which the North Carolina president of AARP described as the best state prescription-drug assistance program for seniors. I also believe that our work at the Health and Wellness Trust Fund serves as a national model for other states in such areas as promoting preventive health care and addressing health disparities in our population.

My background as a school teacher has also made the improvement of public education a top priority.

For example, as chair of the Senate Education Committee, I was proud to be one of the leaders in the effort to institute our nationally recognized Smart Start early childhood development initiative and serve on its initial Board of Directors. And later as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee from 1997-2000, I was widely acknowledged to a very effective advocate for major increases in teacher salaries. We actually succeeded in raising our teacher salaries all the way from 43rd to 21st in the nation. And as Lieutenant Governor, I have led the state’s effort in “wiring” and “networking” our public schools to improve the educational opportunity of students in all corners of our state. As Chair of the Health and Wellness Trust Fund, I led the charge to get tobacco out of our schools and worked diligently to reduce teen smoking.

I am also especially proud of my successful efforts to foster a greener economy in North Carolina. I believe that my sponsorship of the legislation creating our Clean Water Management Trust Fund has been a major step forward for sustainable economic growth as well as environmental protection. Similarly, last year I developed and led the effort to establish the state’s new Green Business Fund to support the development of more clean-technology and alternative energy businesses in our state.

I also believe that my developing of a Working Families Agenda proved instrumental in the passage of our recent increase in the state’s minimum wage and our state’s new Earned Income Tax Credit. North Carolina’s refundable EITC has rewarded the hard work of hundreds of thousands of working families in our state.

3. How do you define yourself politically, and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I am proud to be a progressive Democrat. As I have already discussed, health care and education have long been personal passions and commitments in my life. My experiences as a teacher and a hospital administrator have been driving forces throughout my career and my work as an elected official to improve public education and health care in my state.

But I want to make clear that my commitment to progressive reform in other areas has expanded especially over the last decade. I came from a very conservative family background and was first elected to represent a very conservative eastern North Carolina House district.

But like a lot of folks from my background, I have grown in my personal life as well as an elected official. Becoming a single mother for a period of time in the mid-1990s had a major impact on my perspective about so many things in life. My personal development has deepened my resolve to push the envelope on issues. And watching right-wing political strategists cynically manipulate political “wedge” issues has especially helped me understand the importance of combating the status quo.

My campaign agenda clearly reflects my progressive commitment. As I have already pointed out, Adam Searing of the North Carolina Health Access Coalition has praised my plan for expanding health coverage for providing “the most significant changes in health care access in North Carolina in, quite literally, decades.” My agenda for education reform has won the strong endorsement of the North Carolina Association of Educators. My energy plan is the most far-reaching in its dedication to alternative energy and ending our reliance on such environmentally damaging sources as coal-fired power plants. Similarly, my championing of the innovative public endowment approach to cleaning up our political campaigns has also won the praise of reformers throughout the state.

4. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.

A serious barrier remains the still stinging memory of past racial wrongs in our society that have never been addressed. I believe that this is true in Durham and the Triangle as well as throughout our state.

That is why I have proposed the Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation. After issuing a formal state apology, Governor Easley directed the Department of Health and Human Services to create a task force to explore the history of the program, ensure that it would never be repeated, and make recommendations on how to assist survivors.

The task force recommended creating a nonprofit foundation to identify and serve as a support mechanism for survivors and their descendants. It also recommended that through the Foundation survivors and their family members receive a combination of direct compensation as well as medical benefits, counseling and educational opportunities.

One of my top priorities as North Carolina’s next Governor will be taking the task force recommendations and turning them into action.

As one of my first executive orders, I will authorize the creation of the Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation and name a panel of three retired and highly respected North Carolina judges to guide its development.

These respected jurists will develop a charter for the Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation. The charter will establish guidelines for identifying and assisting survivors and their descendants. The panel will address such questions as how the foundation should navigate such legal issues as the proper use of medical records to establish survivor status without violating medical confidentiality laws. Initial “seed” money for the Foundation in the range of $500,000 will be provided to hire staff.

The panel of retired judges will also develop a framework for providing just compensation to survivors and descendants. I will incorporate this framework into legislation and make it one of her top agenda items to enact into law. I will work directly on this legislation with such leaders on this issue as Representative Larry Womble, Senator Larry Shaw, and other members of the Legislative Black Caucus.

I will also authorize the panel of retired judges to oversee the arbitration of legitimate survivor and descendant claims for compensation.

I am proud to be the candidate who is leading the way on addressing the sterilization issue and the only candidate for Governor committed to seeing that victims and families receive compensation.

5. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

I know that our tax burden should remain competitive with other states. I also favor such targeted measures as expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for our working families, property tax relief for seniors, and tax cuts for our risky small businesses and start-ups. But as North Carolina’s next Governor, I will not make an unconditional “no new taxes” pledge. In particular I will look to increasing cigarette taxes if necessary to help pay for expansion of health coverage to working families. I do not subscribe to the view that Big Tobacco should still be treated as sacred in North Carolina. I demonstrated this belief in my successful leadership as Chair of the Health and Wellness Trust Fund through the effort to ban tobacco products from public school grounds throughout the state.

I am also the only gubernatorial candidate who has been speaking out on a number of issues. These include compensation for sterilization victims, full defense of women’s rights under Roe v. Wade (see Q9), and expanded public health coverage for working parents.

6. If these issues haven’t been addressed above, please comment on:

a. Poverty: What steps, if any, do you advocate to lift up the poor in North Carolina?

In the spring of 2006, I announced the development of my permanent Working Families Agenda. My goal, as I told the North Carolina NAACP in an October 12, 2006 speech, was to identify a plan of action for “a future where there’s help for our working families” through continuing “support for day care assistance, children’s health insurance, affordable housing – and yes tax relief…through a [state] Earned Income Tax Credit.”

Especially around election time, many politicians like to trumpet their sudden support for a progressive measure or two. I in contrast believe that an overarching agenda should exist around which reform forces can perpetually rally on behalf of our working families. In my view, supporting and sustaining such a progressive agenda embodies the truth of Reverend Martin Luther King’s declaration that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

I believe that the creation of my Working Families Agenda proved very helpful in the passage of such recent significant measures as a higher minimum wage and a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). And if I become North Carolina’s next Governor, its existence will ensure that our working families will have a seat at the head of the table on all pocketbook issues ranging from tax relief to health care, family assistance, and affordable housing.

In addition to my health care plan, my Working Families Agenda includes the following:

Increases in the Minimum Wage and EITC Toward a Living Wage

I am proud that so many of our elected officials came together to enact an increase in our state minimum wage to $6.15 – which raised it to one dollar above the federal minimum level at the time. But after Democrats took control in the 2006 elections, Congress enacted a long overdue two-step hike in the federal minimum wage level that will reach $7.25 next year.

As Governor, I will work to raise the minimum wage an additional $1.00 beyond the federal level to $8.25. Our Democratic presidential candidates are pushing for further increases in the federal minimum wage. However, regardless of what happens in Washington, our state’s growing economy should be ready for another periodic increase during my first years in office.

But in my view this next step on the minimum wage will not constitute enough progress in moving our working families out of poverty. Hiking the minimum wage will directly boost the incomes of more than 231,000 workers who are paid the starting wage in North Carolina – a good number of whom are from households that fall in or near the poverty level. Yet the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit directly helps the pocketbooks of over 750,000 North Carolina workers in or near poverty. So in tandem with a minimum wage increase, I will champion the phasing up of our new 3.5% refundable EITC during my first years in office.

Enhancing Access to and Financial Aid Support for Child Care Assistance

I have long been one of the strongest advocates for child care assistance to our working families.

But I know that much work remains to be done over the coming years. State assistance provides support on a sliding-scale income basis and is limited to families who earn less than 75% of state median income in North Carolina. In fact, 85% of the families that participate in the program make less than $25,000 per year. The current waiting list for assistance among eligible children is over 27,000. Up to 300,000 more children may be eligible but not on the waiting list.

Thus as North Carolina’s next Governor, I will be committed to pushing the Legislature during each legislative session to enhance assistance levels and the number of children served. Eliminating the current waiting list will be one of the main goals I set for my first years in office.

Strengthening the Housing Trust Fund

I voted for the establishment of the state’s Housing Trust Fund in 1987during my first year in the legislature, and I have continued to be a strong supporter over the last two decades. The long-range goal of Trust Fund advocates is to push annual state support for the Trust Fund up to $50 million annually. As North Carolina’s next Governor, I will be committed to making significant progress toward this ambitious goal and will take the immediate step of doubling annual state funding.

b. Transportation needs in the state, including roads and transit in the Triangle

North Carolina now faces unmet transportation needs of $30 - $65 billion dollars over the next few decades, a shortfall that threatens our quality of life and our economic development.

Our next governor must be prepared to confront the challenges facing DOT and work with diverse – and often competing – regional needs across the state. We need a governor who will create targeted solutions for the particular needs of different regions. Our needs cannot be solved with a one-size-fits-all approach.

As a co-sponsor of legislation creating the $1 billion a year Highway Trust Fund in 1989, I have demonstrated a longstanding commitment to our transportation future. I know that requires more than just flowery rhetoric and promises. It takes implementation of specific plans to get the job done. These four steps represent my starting points for overhauling transportation in our state and addressing the financial shortfall:

  1. End the annual transfer of money from the Highway Trust Fund

  2. When the Trust Fund was created, the annual transfer was a necessary and bipartisan measure to prevent a drastic impact on such other vital state services as education and health care. Today, nineteen years later, it is time to end the transfer. Every highway-related dollar must stay in the Highway Trust Fund.

    I will end the $170 million annual transfer during my first term. That will generate more than $1 billion in new bonding capacity and allow us to address our most pressing bridge safety needs, road priorities, and to provide gap funding for congestion needs.

  3. Transform the Department of Transportation

  4. We must break the bureaucratic bottleneck by transforming DOT’s outdated, overly-centralized decision making model – just like our best private sector enterprises did long ago. Project planning and decision making should occur in the field with project directors and engineers with expertise and hands-on knowledge. Decentralizing DOT, holding divisions accountable for results, and allowing them to partner with cities and counties and regions will create better management and execution of projects.

  5. Lower Project Costs

  6. It is clear that we can complete our transportation projects more efficiently and quickly. Mainly due to the bureaucratic inefficiencies in the way that DOT schedules and manages projects, the cost of our construction projects too often exceed comparable projects in other states. Cutting months as well as years off projected construction schedules will dramatically reduce our transportation project costs.

    We should also provide clear economic incentives for contractors to finish projects under budget and on time.

  7. Targeted Solutions for Communities

  8. Washington may have backed away from its commitment to public transit systems in our state’s growing cities, but North Carolina should not. We must find innovative ways to promote and encourage public transit and regional rail systems because increasing ridership is the key to securing the federal funding needed for them to succeed. I also support giving local governments more authority to raise the revenue and create the partnerships they need to make more public transit options available in their communities.

    Ending the transfer, transforming DOT, holding contractors accountable, lowering construction costs, and enhancing local transit options are all vital steps to helping North Carolina meet our growing transportation needs. As Governor, I want to make us the “Good Roads State” once again.

    For my full transportation plan, go towww.bevperdue.com/transportation

c. Overcrowded prisons: Should we be moving toward more alternative-sentencing programs instead of prison time?

The establishment of structured sentencing and the Sentencing Commission has provided the state with the tools to more accurately gauge current prison capacity in our state. That can help tell us if adjustments are needed in our sentencing practices to be sure we are targeting the worst and most dangerous offenders. Yet tinkering with prison sentences in my view is a very limited tool. If we are serious about reducing our prison population then we must do more for the at-risk youth of our state. Over 70% of children who have at least one parent in jail will end up in jail themselves. So, I believe that expansion of such early childhood initiatives as Smart Start and More at Four, my College Promise initiative, expanded health coverage for working families, and the rest of my Working Families Agenda are far more powerful programs for reducing prison over-crowding than adjusting sentences for serious crimes.

d. Health care: What should the state do next to address the problem of adults and children without adequate health care or insurance?

I am thrilled that after all these years of our hard work a consensus in our state is finally emerging in favor of universal coverage for children. But the truth is that we will never get as close as we should toward that goal until we start including the parents of these poor children and helping whole families to obtain coverage. Research confirms that a crucial element to enrolling more eligible children is covering their parents as well. A report from the National Academy of Sciences could not have put it better: “Health Insurance Is A Family Matter.”

Our declarations about quality health coverage for all North Carolinians are empty if our efforts do not reach beyond children. Over 700,000 thousand adults – or more than half of our state’s roughly 1.4 million uninsured population – are members of households that subsist at or below 200% of poverty. I think we can all agree that such uninsured men and women are hardly in a position to purchase standard private insurance coverage, even if it were offered to them. The overall premium for a family of four now averages between $10-11,000 annually and the employee share is near the $3,000 level. As a recent Kaiser Family Foundation report declares, “employer coverage is out of reach for nearly all employed low-income parents who are uninsured.”

We will have to demonstrate an extremely disciplined approach for layering in new public coverage that the state can afford over a period of years. My starting point would be to extend first-stage Medicaid coverage to parents up to 150% of poverty with cost sharing on a sliding-income scale basis.

The fact of the matter is that low-income parents in North Carolina are not currently eligible for such public coverage once their income reaches about half of the poverty level. Thus by expanding coverage up to 150% of poverty, we can make eligible approximately 125,000 currently uninsured working parents. When that 125,000 boost in parent coverage is combined with the extension of a universal coverage umbrella for our 250,000 to 300,000 currently uninsured children, we will have covered over 400,000 of our currently uninsured population.

The North Carolina Institute of Medicine has estimated that an approximately $50 million state commitment will trigger enough federal matching support to start first-stage coverage for parents up to 100% of poverty and that another $28 million state commitment will do the same for parents from 100-150% of poverty. Yet the savings from less uncompensated care at hospital emergency rooms and better family health will be substantial.

After making such big steps we may be greeted by a new day in Washington with serious action on the universal coverage front for all uninsured adults. But it is clear that, right now in North Carolina, we must break the ice and start focusing broadly on uninsured families and not just on uninsured children.

My health care plans also include innovative approaches for making private insurance more affordable and initiating a new emphasis on preventive medicine to reduce health care costs across the board. For my plan, see www.bevperdue.com/healthcare

e. Foreclosures: What more should the state be doing to help consumers avoid foreclosure and hold onto their homes?

I strongly support the legislative actions taken during this past General Assembly session to curb new predatory home-mortgage practices that are fueling the foreclosure crisis. I was also a supporter of the landmark 1999 legislation that became a national model for combating more general predatory lending practices. Self-Help Credit Union and The Center for Responsible Lending in Durham, the Justice Center in Raleigh, and a number of other advocacy organizations have provided impressive leadership on this front and I will continue to look to them for policy guidance.

Since recent foreclosure activity in North Carolina has been outpacing the national average, further action is clearly merited. I understand necessary next steps include the following:

  • Initiating state funding so that the Housing Counselors Network can add more counselors throughout the state. Such counselors perform an invaluable service in advising homeowners who may be facing foreclosure and advocating on their behalf with lenders.

  • State support of Legal Aid of North Carolina and other regional services to provide formal legal representation. Too many homeowners already in foreclosure proceedings are suffering further abuse due to their inability to pay an attorney

  • Strengthening the Housing Trust Fund. The greater availability of affordable rental housing options will be crucial for those who have already suffered foreclosure and trying to regain their economic footing. As already discussed, I favor an immediate doubling of state support for the Housing Trust Fund.

  • Expansion of the Home Protection Pilot Program. This initiative provides crucial “bridge” financial assistance targeted to workers dislocated by international trade and in danger of losing their homes.

  • Pro-Homeowner Changes in Our State’s Foreclosure Process. Our state’s foreclosure process is so inflexible that it does not even allow a homeowner to raise the defense that the terms of the home mortgage are illegal. A homeowner must take separate action and even post a bond although most homeowners facing foreclosure lack the financial means to do that.

f. The mental health crisis: Everyone agrees it’s a mess. Now what?

My background in health care tells me that it makes no sense to separate mental from physical health care. The best research confirms that many patients have mixed mental and physical health issues. As North Carolina’s next Governor, I want to establish the national model for an integrated approach to behavioral and primary health services for patients with mental health, development disability, and substance abuse problems. It will be one of my top goals to break down the barriers to the coordination of mental and physical health care.

North Carolina’s Medicaid program has recently moved to the forefront in emphasizing the importance of a “medical home” for the primary physical care of adults and children. Our Community Care of North Carolina has developed a very cost-effective and quality-driven model of statewide case management through health care community networks. We need to extend this kind of collaboration and community network to the delivery of mental health services.

In my view, the concept of a medical home should play a major role in helping to revitalize our badly-tattered mental health system within and outside of Medicaid. Patients with severe mental illness need the security of a medical home as well as strong in-patient professional service. We should also strive to define a basic level of mental health services to which needy patients should have access.

Recent events have made us all too painfully aware of what can happen to those who fall through the gaping holes in our mental health care system. While in the long-term my focus is on closing those holes, it would be irresponsible not to take what steps we can in the short-term to avert tragedy. The Campus Safety Task Force led by Attorney General Cooper has proposed a law to bar handgun sales to people involuntarily committed to mental hospitals. We should take such a sensible step in the interests of the safety of our students and of our communities.

I know that improving our mental health system is easier said than done. Yet we cannot stop until we have a system where the local and state levels work in a coordinated fashion to assure access to appropriate services for all North Carolinians. We will need to adopt a disciplined approach with lots of two-way learning between government officials and the mental health community.

That will require sound leadership and coordination throughout state government. We need stability, a shared vision, and a focus on quality outcomes for all those who depend on our mental health, developmental disability, and substance abuse services. I will be the kind of dedicated, hands-on Governor who can provide this needed leadership on health care generally and mental health in particular.

g. Taxes: Given the needs, are they too high? Too low? Too regressive? What direction should the state be taking on the revenue side?

I understand that we need to keep our tax burden competitive with other states. Recent studies confirm that our state is indeed competitive, especially in terms of the corporate tax burden. Most important for our larger economic future is relieving as much as possible the tax burden on our working families. I strongly support the progressive nature of our state income tax. But as recent research from the Budget and Tax Center confirms, the overall state plus local burden on our working families continues to move in a regressive direction. That is why I strongly support such measures as expansion of the state’s new Earned Income Tax Credit, property tax relief for seniors on limited incomes, and targeted tax incentives for our smallest businesses.

By undertaking a comprehensive modernization of our antiquated tax structure, it is clear that we can have a far more economically efficient and fair system that raises more revenue while preserving and even enhancing our tax competitiveness. At the same time I am committed to finding innovative ways to shake up the budget process in Raleigh that will root out wasteful loopholes and special-interest spending. Similar to a recent innovation that Senator Obama has successfully pushed at the federal level, I am also calling for an electronic open-book government approach so that all state contracts and grants are readily accessible to public scrutiny on the internet. But as already discussed, I will not shy away at the end of the day from taking necessary steps to ensure adequate revenue for the state’s progress.

Finally, I respectfully disagree with the position of my opponent Richard Moore that the state should eliminate the corporate income tax. That would punch an over $1 billion hole in the state budget and require dramatic cuts in the state’s current investments in education, health care, and other vital services. In my view, it would represent a major step backward for our state.

7. What is your position on capital punishment in North Carolina? If in favor, will you support a moratorium on executions while the question of whether the death penalty can be administered fairly is studied by the General Assembly?

Although I support capital punishment as an option, I also favor the moratorium now in place while constitutional issues about the fairness of procedures are being studied and decided. My opponent Richard Moore in contrast opposes any moratorium and has criticized my position in favor of it. See Raleigh News & Observer, “Support for Death Penalty Shakier” (February 7, 2007).

8. What is your position regarding LGBT rights? Please address whether gay marriages or civil unions should be made legal in North Carolina; also, whether sexual orientation and identity should be added as a protected class under state anti-discrimination laws, including state personnel laws.

I do not support a constitutional marriage amendment because North Carolina law is clear. As Lieutenant Governor, I have a formal policy in my office prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As Governor, I would ensure that this policy is administered throughout state government. I do not believe that such discrimination has any justification in the workplace or anywhere else. And I believe that civil contracts between adults regarding property and other personal matters should be honored. People who are involved in a committed relationship should not be barred from making health care decisions and visiting loved ones in the hospital.

9. Do you support women’s reproductive rights, including the “right to choose” as set out by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade?

This year as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we face a climate in which defending our rights is very challenging. With a 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court and state legislatures at work throughout much of the nation trying to undo the fundamental tenets of Roe, there is simply no denying that our reproductive rights are under attack. That is why, as governor, I will continue to protect a woman’s right to choose and will veto any legislation that seeks to weaken those rights.

Throughout this campaign, I have sounded the alarm about the attacks on Roe v. Wade, as I did immediately following the Carhart decision, which essentially denied Roe's constitutional requirement that a women's health must be protected throughout pregnancy. I am proud to be the one candidate for governor who is speaking out in public forums on behalf of women’s reproductive rights and defending Roe v. Wade. I am also proud that that Emily's List, the premier national organization in support of pro-choice women candidates, has endorsed me.

I will also continue to work on behalf of other pro-choice candidates, as I did while serving as spokeswoman for the NC affiliates of Planned Parenthood and NARAL’s joint GOTV calling operations.

But we cannot continue to play defense alone. It is particularly important to foster a positive legislative agenda that focuses on preventing teen pregnancies. We should enhance support for family planning, emergency contraception, and efforts to reduce sexually transmitted diseases.

10. Should public employees have the right to bargain collectively in North Carolina?

I believe that North Carolina is one of only two states in the nation that has a pre-emptive ban on such a policy decision by a willing local government. I also know that this kind of total pre-emptive ban is under legal attack across the nation, as well as internationally, on freedom of association and other grounds. This pre-emptive status quo may well not be able to withstand legal attack in the 21st century, and we will need to consider making changes as part of the larger rethinking about state-local government relations that I want to generate as North Carolina’s next Governor. We now have two world-class economic centers in Charlotte and the Triangle as well as numerous other growing metropolitan areas. And we must find ways more in tune with the fast-moving nature of the 21 century economy for our cities to more flexibly govern themselves without so many mandates on all fronts from Raleigh.

At the state level, I am in favor of regular and wide-ranging workplace discussions between state employee representatives and agency managers. This is the essence of smart and effective management practices in the 21st century. The leaders of the State Employees Association will confirm that I am the candidate in this race with by far the most progressive record of support for their salary and other concerns.

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