Luis Toledo—N.C. Senate, District 16 (Democratic Primary) | Candidate Questionnaires - Statewide | Indy Week

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Luis Toledo—N.C. Senate, District 16 (Democratic Primary)

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Luis Toledo
Campaign website:  www.LuisToledoforNC.com
Phone number: (919) 374-1228
Email: Info@LuisToledoforNC.com
Years lived in the district: In the triangle 15 years, in the district 6 years

1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues facing North Carolina? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?

The three most pressing issues facing North Carolina are: the weakening of our state’s public education system (we currently rank in the bottom in many categories); a lack of respect for good governance and our democratic institutions (there is currently no transparency and no debates on key issues, and Republicans are abusing their power and affecting each branch of government just to stay in control); and our aging population (next year there will be more people over 60 than under 17 in our state and legislators are not preparing for this drastic demographic shift which will affect our state budget and economy).

On Education: If elected, I would focus on investing above the national average in our students and teachers, to include ensuring safe schools. On Good Governance: If elected, I would work to end gerrymandering in our state by establishing an independent redistricting commission, make budget decisions based on analysis and not on political parties, and would focus on ensuring the judicial redistricting approach is not an abuse of power. On our aging population: If elected, I would work to expand Medicaid in our state and will be make the champion of our elderly. This segment of the population will continue to grow and needs to be protected – from a budget planning standpoint we need to ensure that we allocate the adequate resources for healthcare services, elderly care, transportation, and housing options. All of this will require a leader in the General Assembly that understand that this aging population will affect our economy, our budget, our workforce, and requires us to promote a strong education system.


2. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your voting record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?

I am not challenging an incumbent – Senate District 16 is a newly created district and an open seat.

3. The state’s economy seems to be humming along nicely. How much of that do you attribute to the tax cuts enacted over the past several years? What policies would you like to see put in place to ensure growth going forward?

Our state’s economy is working nicely for some but at the same time is leaving thousands of people behind. When it comes to the success of our state I have to point out that most of it has been here in the Triangle and the reason for that is not the tax cuts. The companies that have come to our area have done so because we have one of the most educated workforces in the country. My district represents innovation, the future, technology, and diversity – things that I represent myself as well. Great companies understand this and they will keep coming to our state if we emphasize education and take care of our people. To ensure continued growth going forward I want North Carolina to be a leader and be competitive – in short I want our state to be recognized as a leader for the jobs of the future. In order to make that a reality I want North Carolina to be ranked in the top 5 when it comes to investing in our public schools and educational attainment. I also want to promote continued education for everyone regardless of age or ability to pay so that no person in our state falls behind. In our evolving digital and information based economy each person should have the ability to continue to adapt and learn new skills that will continue to attract companies to our area – and the state should be the main driver promoting that at both the community college and university level. Furthermore, I want our state to be innovative and to invest in our people and help our own entrepreneurs launch their careers here in the state. There are many innovative commerce programs that are not being utilized as they should.

4. On the other hand, much of the wealth has gone to the state’s urban centers, whereas many rural areas are struggling. While this is in many ways a national phenomenon, what can North Carolina do to address the disparities in prosperity within its borders?

North Carolina needs a vision for the future, and my vision is to ensure each region of the state has a strategy and stands for something that the state can promote and build upon. One specific area that I want to focus on as well is closing the ‘digital divide’ between urban and rural communities by expanding broadband internet access all across our state through public investment and public-private partnerships. In today’s age, if a community does not have access to a basic infrastructure like this it cannot be strong and compete. As someone who also attended our state’s community college system I understand that these institutions play a major role in defining the workforce of their local community – as such they must be strong and promoted.

5. Republicans in the legislature have boasted in recent years of increased school expenditures and rising teacher pay, some local officials, particularly in urban areas, have complained that it’s not good enough. Do you think North Carolina’s schools are being adequately funded? If not, what taxes would you be willing to raise—or what services would you be willing to cut—to fund them better?

North Carolina is not investing adequately in our public schools, our students and our teachers. The numbers don’t lie and the fact is that our state is ranked in the bottom when it comes to many educational measures. As State Senator I would work to stop the tax cuts that are scheduled to go into effect in January 2019. Furthermore, I would like to see corporate tax rates increase to an adequate amount. It is not right for Republicans to brag about having some of the lowest corporate rates when we have unfunded mandates all across government, our population is increasing, and the needs of our people are changing.

6. In a similar vein, there has been a movement in recent years toward “school choice” programs such as vouchers and charter schools. Critics say these programs detract from traditional schools and may even exacerbate segregation. Do you support these programs and believe they need to be expanded?

I do not support programs that take funding away from our public schools. I’m adamantly against school vouchers as they undermine our system of public schools, diverting funding to unaccountable schools that are allowed to discriminate against students on the basis of religion and sexual orientation. North Carolina should not be in the business of providing unaccountable funding to private organizations, nor should we be in the business of subsidizing discrimination.

As for charter schools, I join the NAACP in calling for a moratorium on any new charter schools in North Carolina. In theory, charter schools could serve as important laboratories of school innovation, from which we could apply lessons to our traditional, inclusive public schools. In practice, however, charter schools are contributing to the segregation of our public schools, creating additional fiscal pressures on traditional school districts, all while failing to move the needle on student achievement. Meanwhile, debates over school choice continue to distract policymakers from examining the best ways to strengthen our traditional, inclusive public schools. Too many lawmakers incorrectly believe that "choice" is a substitute for "quality" - that having two under-funded, under-staffed schools is somehow preferable to creating one adequately funded school that has the resources to meet all of its students' needs. Until measures are in place to address the extent to which charters are contributing to segregation (i.e., requiring charters to provide transpiration and lunch; enforcement for laws requiring charter student demographics to reflect their larger community) and additional funding to recognize the additional burden charters place on traditional schools, I would call on the General Assembly to reject the approval of any new charter schools.

The third lane of school choice is our virtual charter schools. Virtual charter schools have failed in every other state, and they're failing in North Carolina. I would immediately call for an end to this misguided "pilot program."

7. Do you believe the state of North Carolina should expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. If so, do you believe that expansion should come with the work requirements the Trump administration is now permitting?

Yes, North Carolina should expand Medicaid under the ACA and I am committed to making that happen. The Republican approach of leaving over half a million people in our state with no health coverage is wrong and all North Carolinians are paying the price. I believe that work requirements are unnecessary as the evidence shows that the majority of Medicaid recipients are already working, attending school, or taking care of another family member. The reality is that our state already has some of the strictest Medicaid eligibility criteria in the country and our state’s Department of Health and Human Services has a Program Integrity Office that ensures adequate controls are in place to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.

8. After the Parkland mass shooting, Florida passed a law raising the age of all gun sales to twenty-one and requiring a three-day waiting period on all gun purchases. There have also been calls to limit magazine sizes or ban assault-style rifles. North Carolina has fairly permissive gun laws. Do you believe the state’s gun laws need to be change? If so, in what ways?

Yes, I do. I am a military veteran and I believe that here in the state we can do more to reduce gun violence in public and domestic settings. I support gun restraining orders, the banning of assault-style rifles, and closing loopholes around background checks. I am committed to working with our congressional delegation to take action at the federal level as well. I am proud to have received the gun-sense candidate distinction from Moms Demand Action.

9. Currently, twenty-nine states have minimum wages above the federal minimum. North Carolina is not among them. Do you believe North Carolina should raise its minimum wage―or, alternatively, give municipalities the ability to raise minimum wages within their jurisdictions?

People need to be paid living wages and I strongly believe that North Carolina needs to raise its minimum wage to $15/hour. I find it unacceptable that many people across our state work two or three jobs and are still living paycheck to paycheck and struggle to pay for the basics such as food, rent, and transportation. I also find it unacceptable that the number of people in North Carolina living in poverty has increased compared to ten years ago. In order for our state to be competitive and a leader in the future we must ensure each person has a living wage and it is clear that the minimum wage in our state must be raised.

10. The replacement bill for HB 2 that passed last year prohibits local governments from passing living-wage or nondiscrimination ordinances until 2020. It seems likely that this legislature will set limits on how much freedom local governments will have. Did you support the HB 2 replacement? Why or why not? And what restrictions, if any, do you believe the legislature should place on local governments when that moratorium expires?

I believe HB2 hurt our state and many people. I was against HB2 as I stand against any form of hate or discrimination. I love and respect the LGBTQ community. While I did not agree 100 percent with the replacement I understand that we were trying to make progress. When it comes to the General Assembly I believe that the legislature should not infringe on local governments and their ability to pass living-wage or nondiscrimination ordinances. If elected, I will work to ensure all local governments have no restrictions starting in 2019 with a new General Assembly.

11. Over the last year, the state has frequently found itself in court over its legislative and congressional districts, which courts have ruled racial and, in the latter case, partisan gerrymanders. Do you believe the state’s legislative and congressional districts have been drawn fairly? Do you believe the process itself is fair? If not, how would you suggest changing it?

I do not believe the state’s legislative and congressional districts have been drawn fairly. I also don’t believe the process itself has been fair. In order to remedy the rigging of the political map-drawing process I support an independent redistricting commission aided by computer modeling. We can and must do better to improve the process that we currently have – and that starts with taking the map-drawing out of the hands of politicians.

12. While other states have relaxed their prohibitions on marijuana and raised revenues by taxing either recreational or medicinal cannabis, North Carolina has not. What sort of reforms, if any, would you support with regard to marijuana policy?

I have not seen any analysis that shows how legalizing recreational or medicinal cannabis would hurt the state. Given North Carolina has not made much progress in this area I would support work to begin learning lessons from other states and promoting medicinal cannabis in the state. Many of my constituents have shared stories with me about how this helps them and I seek to be the voice of my constituents on all matters and taking our state forward on all issues.

13. Give an example of a time, during your political career, when you have changed your position as a result of a discussion with someone who held an opposing view.

I am a listener and a thinker. Given my experience as a leader in the federal and state government I was trained not to make decisions until I’ve heard various viewpoints including opposing ones so finding an example of this is pretty difficult. I will say that I’ve seen ‘group-think’ firsthand and based on those experiences I am always asking questions and for feedback.

14. What would you do to address the partisan rancor in the General Assembly? In what ways do you believe you can effectively work across party lines?

As a former Assistant State Auditor, I stand for accountability, evidence-based policymaking and good governance. As such, I bring credibility to the table and a firm understanding of state government issues that affect the entire state and will allow me to work across party lines. My commitment is to the people and I am willing to work with any person, of any party, on any matter that helps the people of our state.

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

If elected I would be the only Latino in the General Assembly and given the fact that the Hispanic population is now one million strong in the state, yet has no voice at the table, I have duty to be a voice for all minority communities that have been silent and at times misunderstood or discriminated against. As such, one stand that I would take that might cost me some points is my belief that nobody in our state should be prevented from obtaining an ID Card or Driver’s License. Currently thousands of people in our state cannot obtain one based solely on their immigration status and this unnecessarily promotes fear and hurts families and business owners on a daily basis. From a public safety and a Census standpoint we need to change that. My district is one of the most diverse in the state and immigration related topics are very important to many of my constituents but is also a topic that many do not understand or can relate to. As the son of a Hispanic immigrant I know there are many barriers in the state that need to be removed to allow everyone to contribute their full potential to our state and I am willing to stand up for those that have no voice, as I represent justice for all.

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