Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Walter Dalton
Date of Birth: May 21, 1949
Campaign Web Site: www.walterdalton.org
Occupation & Employer: State Senate/Dalton & Miller Law Office (attorney)
Years lived in North Carolina: 59 (entire life)
1) What do you see as the most important issues facing North Carolina? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
As the nation's economy struggles, I believe the most important issue we face as a state is the challenge of continuing to move in the right direction during tough times, and that means smart and sound investments in education, job creation, and healthcare. These are always smart investments and should be our priority, even when times are tough.
JOB CREATION: North Carolina has done a tremendous job in creating new jobs and bringing new businesses to our state. We have also done a great job in transforming our economy. When unfair federal trade deals sent jobs overseas, we didn't sit around and wait for jobs to return; we invested in the future and brought 21st Century jobs to the state. We must continue down this path to attract new jobs and support existing ones, but also make sure displaced workers find new jobs through retraining programs.
EDUCATION: Since I have been in the Senate, we have made great progress in education. I was co-chair of the education committee and later co-chair of the appropriations committee when we made historic investments in education. I lowered class sizes and raised teacher pay, passed the Governor's Learn and Earn bill that is now nationally recognized, and I fought for the passage of the historic University and Community College Bond Act, the largest of its kind in the nation. Much of these investments were made while the state was going through a budget crisis but we made a commitment to protect our top priorities. Those investments have more than paid off. Although I am proud of the progress that has been made, we must continue to invest in education because our children's future is dependent upon it.
HEALTH CARE: Too many people are either uninsured or have inadequate coverage. Too many families struggle because their health insurance premiums are simply too high. As a state, we must act to ensure that more people have access to affordable, quality healthcare. Since I came to the Senate, North Carolina has passed a child health insurance bill that insures our children and a senior prescription drug benefit that helped our seniors. We need to continue programs like these and focus on preventive medicine with a goal of making North Carolina healthier.
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.
I helped improve our schools by lowering class sizes, raising teacher pay, and strengthening universities and community colleges. I was instrumental in creating the Learn and Earn program, which accelerates learning, reduces the dropout rate, and saves parents money. I fought for EARN scholarships which allows students to graduate from college debt free. I supported programs like Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG) and the One North Carolina Fund to attract and retain thousands of jobs in our state. I pushed for SCHIP and the prescription drug bill that has helped our children and seniors obtain better and less expensive health care. I authored the Home Protection Program that has helped nearly 300 families save their homes from foreclosure and helped thousands of others through counseling.
It was possible to do this because I understand the legislative process, and I have forged relationships with my fellow members in order to push a positive agenda that moves North Carolina forward. The Lieutenant Governor's prime responsibility is to preside over the Senate. I have intricate knowledge of the Senate and that will help make the office an effective bully pulpit for the issues that I have previously mentioned. More importantly, because of my background and experience I will be ready to step in at a moment's notice should anything happen to the Governor.
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 a proud Democrat and always have been. The Democratic Party has always fought for the underdog, tried to create opportunities for everyone, and sought to create justice where injustice reigns. I am proud to be a member of the party and the progressive tradition that it represents.
It is my strong belief that opportunity is created through education. I am fond of saying that "prosperity can be achieved through education." For that reason, I have made education my central focus as an elected official. North Carolina has made vast improvements in our educational system since I have been there, training our children for tomorrow's jobs and giving them opportunity to stay in state. Our colleges and universities are some of the best in the country thanks to the historic Bond Act which I helped make a reality.
As a Senator, I have used the office to be a voice for the people that usually don't have one in government. That's why I passed an Earned Income Tax Credit and an increase in the minimum wage to help lower-income North Carolinians. I helped preserve hundreds of thousands of acres from development, including Chimney Rock in my home district, and worked to make North Carolina a leader in environmental standards. I sponsored legislation to protect children from sexual predators and supported laws against domestic violence. I have recently proposed creating a stem cell research fund so we can find cures right here in North Carolina for those afflicted with debilitating conditions (please see attached document). I supported the creation of the North Carolina Cancer Hospital to make our state a leader in cancer research that will save lives.
These are just a few examples of how I've applied my basic philosophy of government to create sound public policy. I look forward to continuing doing that as Lieutenant Governor.
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.
Education is the great equalizer. Many of the challenges we face begin when our schools fail the children they are supposed to serve. I strongly believe that we can confront our challenges -- poverty, crime, lack of opportunity, intolerance -- by investing in our public schools and ensuring that every child has the opportunity to succeed. That's why I worked to create the Learn and Earn program and fought for the EARN scholarship program. In addition, I worked for additional funding for our most vulnerable areas by fully funding the Low Wealth School formula and by creating the Disadvantaged Student Supplemental Fund. North Carolina has made significant investments in education, but we must do more to improve our schools. As Lieutenant Governor, I want to be remembered for my work in education and making our children's future brighter with a goal of creating a more just community statewide.
5) Is there a stand you'll take on principle if elected, even though it may cost you some popularity points with voters?
I would like to believe that I always stand on principle, just as every elected official should. But elected officials also represent a constituency whose views may differ from their own. The art of politics is a balancing act between those two important ideas; forging good ideas and good politics to make good policy. For 12 years, I have represented a part of the state that many would consider to be conservative. Yet I have been able to represent my constituents and push an agenda that moves North Carolina forward that has improved education, health care, and the economy.
As Lieutenant Governor, I will always work to balance principle and politics to make good policy. I will never compromise on doing what is right to help average North Carolinians; though I would hope that doing "the right thing" is never unpopular with North Carolina voters.
6) If these issues haven't been addressed above, would you please comment on:
a. Poverty: What steps, if any, do you advocate to lift up the poor in North Carolina?
As I said before, prosperity can be achieved through education. In that vein, we can lift up the poor by ensuring that all children -- whether rich, poor, black, or white -- have access to the best education. That also includes keeping college tuition low and continuing innovative programs such as Learn and Earn that allows high school students to graduate with a high school diploma and an associate's degree in five years and then gives children living in poverty a chance to get an EARN scholarship that helps them complete a four year degree at no cost.
Furthermore, I believe North Carolina should always be proactive with its minimum wage law to combat poverty. We acted before the federal government did to raise our minimum wage. We should always act ahead of the federal government if they refuse to raise the minimum wage. The minimum wage should keep up with inflation and the cost of living index with a goal of every North Carolinian earning a living wage.
We can continue reducing poverty through our commitment to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. I am disappointed that the federal government didn't expand SCHIP, but North Carolina should continue its commitment to make sure all of our children are insured.
b. Transportation needs in the state, including roads and transit in the Triangle?
For myriad reasons, it is imperative that we alleviate traffic congestion in North Carolina and the Triangle. Traffic is bad for the environment, it's bad for our health, and it's bad for our sanity. We should explore innovative ideas such as staggered work days. I want to see more people locate to downtown areas so that walking or riding a bike is a real feasibility. We should create more bike baths and green spaces to encourage walkers and bike riders. An emphasis should be placed on building and repairing roads so that traffic can be differentiated between through traffic and commuter traffic.
Furthermore, I believe as the Triangle grows we have a real opportunity to seriously look at light rail. Recent population surveys put Wake County as one of the 10 fastest growing counties in the country, and soon Wake will overtake Mecklenburg as the largest county in the state. Light rail has been well received and has worked well in Charlotte. It's time to get serious about implementing light rail in the Triangle.
c. Energy: Do you favor off-shore drilling in North Carolina's coastal waters? Other steps in the state could take to reduce gasoline and electricity costs?
I think it is imperative that as a nation we begin to reduce our dependence on foreign oil immediately. We must have a comprehensive energy plan that includes increases in fuel efficiency standards and alternative and renewable components as part of the package. These alternative and renewable options must become the rule and not the exception. The reality is that off-shore drilling is now going to be a part of that discussion. My position is that we need to make sure we are utilizing the 68 million acres of current available leases before any drilling off North Carolina's coast begins.
During my time in the Senate, we have begun to take measures to become a more energy efficient and green state. We worked with both the environmental community and the energy industry to pass the Clean Energy Act that requires that 12.5% of North Carolina's energy come from energy efficiency or renewable energy by 2021. This law will also help our state reduce gasoline and electricity costs and emissions by making North Carolina a leader in solar research and technology, and establishing tax credits for energy efficiency.
d. School vouchers: Should the state provide vouchers to parents who choose private (K-12) schools for their children? If so, what amount?
I do not support school vouchers because I believe that reducing the amount of money dedicated directly to North Carolina's public schools will have an adverse effect on educating our children. As a senator, I had an opportunity to review England's voucher system and it was a complete failure. I also believe we risk increasing achievement gaps in some low wealth areas if vouchers are used to send children to private schools. We must continue our commitment to preparing our children for the 21st century by fully investing in K-12 education, community colleges and universities. We can not increase teacher pay, reduce class sizes, and create innovative programs like Learn and Earn if we take money out of our public education system.
e. Overcrowded prisons: Should we be moving toward more alternative-sentencing programs instead of prison time?
North Carolina should take a close look at its corrections department and determine how to best alleviate overcrowding in prisons. There are several ways to do this, including building more prisons, looking at alternative ways of punishments, and electronic monitoring. I believe we should examine criminals on a case by case basis and determine, based on the nature of the crime and close examination, what combination of prison time and in or out-of-prison rehabilitation each needs. What is clear is that we cannot use the same old orthodoxy when dealing with our criminal justice system.
We need to address the root of the prison problem which is lack of economic opportunity. Good schools and great opportunity are the best inoculation against criminal behavior. We must strive to prevent our children from ever considering crime as an option.
f. Health care: What should the state do next to address the problem of adults and children without adequate health care or insurance?
North Carolina should focus on providing quality health care to all, even if the federal government refuses to act as it has shown itself to do. As a state, we have made steps in the right direction, passing legislation to provide children with health insurance and helped seniors with prescription drugs. I co-sponsored the high risk insurance pool and a tax credit for small businesses that offer health care benefits. But we must do more. Health care is too essential to allow so many to go without it.
We should also focus on preventive care, with the goal of making our citizens healthy for life. North Carolina as a state should do more to promote health and fitness, especially beginning in our schools, and do more to educate parents about childhood obesity and the chronic problems that are associated with this condition.
Administrative costs are also a huge financial burden for hospitals. We should help to streamline those costs and reduce them so that health care expenses are not astronomical.
g. Foreclosures: What more should the state be doing to help consumers avoid foreclosure and hold onto their homes?
In the spring I read the Independent's article about the foreclosure crisis in America and across North Carolina and I couldn't agree more about the severity of the crisis. I recognized this problem in 2003 when many displaced textile workers in my Senate district were struggling to make their mortgage payments. For that reason, I authored and passed the Home Protection Program. The HPP has helped nearly 300 families save their homes from foreclosure, and many more have benefited from the counseling services that it provides. It gives qualified recipients an interest-free loan of up to $20,000 so they have the needed time to go back to school or find a new job. A unique component is a 120-day stay of foreclosure that goes into effect immediately once the application is approved by the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency.
I strongly believe that programs such as the HPP need to be implemented on a larger scale. We should also expand the counseling aspect of the HPP so people are less vulnerable to sub-prime scams and are aware of their options before facing imminent foreclosure. That's why during the short session I sponsored and passed legislation to secure additional funding for the HPP so that people who, through no fault of their own, are faced with losing their homes can keep them.
h. Taxes: Given the needs, are they too high? Too low? Too regressive? What direction should the state be taking on the revenue side?
In my opinion, North Carolina has generally done a good job of balancing a need for sufficient tax revenue with a need to keep taxes low for average citizens. I believe in a progressive tax system; one that doesn't burden those in our society who are struggling just to get by. That's why I was proud to support the Earned Income Tax Credit that assists lower-income households. I also helped eliminate the food tax and capped the gas tax, both of which disproportionately affect working families.
I also believe that small business taxes need to be kept low to encourage those businesses that are the backbone of our economy. During my time in the Senate, I have supported legislation to significantly reduce the tax burden on small business.
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?
I support capital punishment, but only for the most heinous cases in which convicted criminals show no remorse for their crimes. I do believe however, especially with new DNA technology, that a moratorium is necessary -- either de facto or legislatively- until we can assure that the death penalty is truly administered fairly and justly. I voted for a moratorium in the Senate so the state can work to ensure these principles are practiced.
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.
State law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman. There is no need or reason for a constitutional amendment to clarify existing law. I support hospital visitation and partner health benefits for same sex couples. It is my belief that workforce discrimination based on race, creed, gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation is wrong. Additionally, I support anti-bullying legislation intended to protect children from all forms of harassment, including bullying targeted at children because of their sexual orientation.
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?
I support women's reproductive rights as set out in Roe v. Wade. Abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare" in the United States. This philosophy is a good general guidepost for how we approach choice in North Carolina.
10) Should public employees have the right to bargain collectively in North Carolina?
I agree in principle with collective bargaining for state employees, but as with any policy, I would have to see a specific proposal or piece of legislation before deciding how best to proceed. I believe that the core of North Carolina is the working man and woman and that philosophy will guide me in any collective bargaining legislation.