Moore Legislators Give Perdue Good Review
Moore County's Republican legislators reacted with admiration and sympathy to Gov. Beverly Perdue's first State of the State address Monday night.
In an address to a joint session of both chambers of the N.C. Gene-ral Assembly, the state's first woman governor, a Demo-crat, delivered a sober message about a major revenue shortfall and the need for sharp budget cuts.
"I certainly admire her," said state Sen. Harris Blake, a Republican from Pinehurst. "We have a major challenge before us, and she recognizes the extent of that challenge."
"I think she will do a very fair job. Almost everybody's going to be negatively affected. I think she will be fair and objective."
Freshman State Rep. Jamie Boles, a Southern Pines Republican, said he agreed with what Perdue stated.
"The state budget is short of funds, and services are going to be cut, everything but essential services such as education and public safety," Boles said.
Blake said the state's huge revenue shortfall represents a challenge for everyone in the legislature as well as the governor. Perdue is a former legislator and former lieutenant governor, and Blake said both offices have given her experience to understand legislative operations. As lieutenant governor, she was presiding officer of the Senate.
"She understands the system, and I think she wants to do it right," Blake said.
Boles agreed that Perdue will be fair and reasonable but admitted disappointment that her address lacked specifics. He found her remarks to be overly "guarded."
"I was hoping she would present a more specific plan, a road map of what her actions are going to be," Boles said. "I do understand her position that she doesn't know everything at this time."
Boles said he agreed with her about the testing issue in the schools.
"From what I'm hearing from teachers, they're having to teach to the test," Boles said. "I think the schools should focus on teaching, not on testing."
Boles added that the state could save a lot of money by removing some of the battery of tests required by the state and federal governments.
He said it was a bad idea to divert the lottery money.
"That's setting a bad precedent," Boles said. "If you buy a lottery ticket and it says it's an education lottery, then the money ought to go to education. I have a problem with that (diverting lottery money from education)."
Boles said that if Perdue wants to be an education governor, then she should not tinker with money designated for education.
"Those are things you do not touch," Boles said.
Blake mentioned another financial temptation before the governor: the federal economic stimulus package money. That money has not been tapped so far, and he wants it to be directed toward stimulating the economy in North Carolina, not toward balancing the state budget.
"Our object is not to use the stimulus money to balance the budget," Blake said. "It's a temptation, but that's not what it's intended to do."
He added that so far this funding has not been diverted.
Both legislators gave the governor credit for a good beginning.
Blake said Perdue made it clear that "nothing is sacred, except education." He gave her "a lot of credit" on efforts to be fair and open with the General Assembly.
Boles said he is especially impressed with her openness.
"At least she's talking to the people and the General Assembly and admitting we have problems," Boles said. "I admire her for her openness. The public needs to know what's going on. It's their business."
This is Boles' first session of the legislature and her address was a first in more than one way for him.
"It was quite an experience," Boles said. "I was part of history being made."
'Must Keep Promise'
In her address Perdue promised to search for ways to secure more funding within the classroom despite economic hard times.
Perdue did not spell out exactly how that would be accomplished, nor did she specify where the most painful budget cuts would be made. She did call for a reduction of the emphasis on testing, something she called "testing mania." Perdue said the state could also save money by cutting out unnecessary and redundant testing.
"Everything is on the table," she said. "We don't have time for talk show political posturing or petty partisan games."
The governor is to present her budget proposal next week.
In the Republican response to the governor's address, Senate GOP Leader Phil Berger, of Rockingham County, directed his sharpest barbs at the spending practices of Democratic leaders in the past but was generally kind to Perdue.
Berger said he was pleased to hear the governor reiterate her campaign promise not to raise taxes.
"This is a promise she must keep, and Republicans are ready to help sustain her veto of any budget legislation Democrats pass that includes increased taxes and fees," Berger said.
Berger said the state must place priority on protecting the family budget and focus on such basic needs as education, transportation, public safety and "having a tax and regulatory climate that enables the private sector to create good jobs."
Berger said GOP legislators are willing to work with Perdue and Democratic leaders to find solutions.
"However, we will support proposals only if they are in keeping with the principles I outlined earlier: protecting the family budget, a focus on core state functions and appreciating that there is one North Carolina where we all live and work and, as we know, where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great."
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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