ON THE ISSUES
North Carolina has always been known as a state that values public education. However, since taking control of the General Assembly, the Republicans in Raleigh have repeatedly chosen to cut taxes for those at the top rather than investing in our public schools. North Carolina now ranks 43rd in the nation in per pupil spending, more than $3000 below the national average. Right-wing politicians talk about “school choice” as they repeatedly underfund our public schools, driving families to private and charter schools. Real choice means fully funding our public schools so that they are the first, best option for North Carolina’s families. It is time to stop cutting and start investing in our public schools, in our children, and in our future.
To say that the Republicans in the General Assembly have treated our teachers badly is a gross understatement. North Carolina’s average teacher salary has fallen to well below the national average. Most of our teachers can get a $10,000 raise simply by moving across the border to South Carolina or Tennessee. This is unsustainable and unacceptable. If we are going to compete in a global economy, then we need to start treating our teachers like the professionals they are, and that begins with raising teacher pay to at least the national average. It is time for North Carolina to commit to a comprehensive plan to raise all teachers’ pay and set real benchmarks that will serve to hold future elected leaders accountable. Republican politicians have offered meager teacher pay increases in past election years and this year will, undoubtedly, be no different. But we need to put an end to half-measures and using our children’s’ teachers as political props. It is time that we once again make North Carolina a destination for teachers.
North Carolina can have a strong economy that creates high paying jobs and, at the same time, protects our environment – the two are not mutually exclusive. But we cannot let big polluters evade the laws designed to protect our air and water. Since taking control of the General Assembly, right-wing politicians have stripped essential environmental protections, giving amnesty to corporate polluters and passing on the costs of cleanup to middle-class families. We need to hold polluters accountable and protect the health and safety of our children.
We also need to continue to invest in clean energy technology and development. Clean energy doesn’t just benefit North Carolina’s environment and the health of our families – it also creates jobs, and has been a significant source of economic development in the Tar Heel State. In 2015, the clean energy sector of our economy employed more than 26,000 North Carolinians and brought in $7 billion in revenue. I will work to support the continued growth of our clean energy economy by reinstating the Renewable Energy Tax Credit and increase North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard.
Small businesses are the engine of the North Carolina economy, creating about two-thirds of the new jobs in our state. Despite their rhetoric, however, right-wing politicians in Raleigh have largely ignored small businesses. Instead, Republicans have given massive tax cuts to large corporations, while eliminating a tax break that saved small business owners more than $300 million per year. They have also increased the sales tax on goods and services that disproportionately impacts small businesses. We need to prioritize our small businesses. We should make it easier to start and manage a small business by creating a comprehensive online system, streamlining the process and reducing the administrative burden on small businesses. In addition, we should give truly small business owners and startups – not just large, out-of state corporations - a tax break. Rather than treating them as an afterthought, we need to make small businesses an essential element of our economic development discussion.
While the Republicans in Raleigh have done a lot of horrible things to hurt working class families, refusing billions of dollars from the federal government to expand Medicaid to more than 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians is probably the worst. Decreasing the number of people without health insurance will lower health care costs for everyone. Further, accepting federal funds for Medicaid will inject an estimated $15 billion over ten years into North Carolina’s economy, creating an estimated 43,000 new jobs. North Carolinians are already paying federal taxes for Medicaid expansion, but instead of getting our share, that money is currently being sent to other states. By expanding Medicaid, we will bring billions of dollars back to North Carolina. Rejecting Medicaid expansion has already cost our state billions of dollars – it is time to put partisan politics aside and do what is right for North Carolina’s families.
An overwhelming majority of North Carolinians want commonsense gun safety reform. But, for far too long, Republican politicians have stood in the way. I support the measures proposed by Governor Cooper and Democratic members in the General Assembly, including banning bump stocks, expanding background checks, and raising the age to buy assault-style weapons. I also support increasing funding for school psychologists and counselors, and allowing courts to temporarily take away guns from anyone deemed to be a threat. We can have gun safety reform in North Carolina and still protect the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners – the two are not mutually exclusive.
Gerrymandering makes partisanship worse by valuing political power over the will of the people. North Carolina needs to get back to the way our democracy is meant to work with fair maps and fair elections. We need legislators willing to do the right thing and put an end to the practice. I pledge to support the creation of an independent, nonpartisan redistricting process for congressional and legislative districts.