Perdue addresses employment, budget, Easley

December 17, 2010 4:58:26 AM PST
Governor Beverly Perdue offered a frank assessment of the realities facing the state of North Carolina during an end of year Q & A with reporters at the executive mansion on Thursday afternoon.

Click here to watch the raw video of her comments

Perdue touched on everything from the economy and jobs, to her own performance as governor.

The Governor began the conversation with an optimistic tone, talking about her priorities for 2011.

"I believe we're bouncing back," she said. "You have to protect your core to invest in the economy and grow jobs and you've got to protect education for us to come out on the right end."

But her optimism was quickly tempered by the state's harsh realities - a $3.5 billion budget hole and a jobless rate of over 9 percent.

Perdue didn't shrink from those numbers, saying unemployment may stay high for years to come.

"I'd love to see it at 5 or 6 (percent, but) I don't believe that's going to happen soon," she said.

On the budget, Perdue offered an equally frank assessment.

"If I don't have money, if the state doesn't have money, then you have to do some bad things I guess - or things that are difficult," Perdue said. "Focus on the core and define the core. We have stuff in North Carolina that's unnecessary that we're spending tax dollars on that we need to totally eliminate. It's going to make a lot of people mad."

What won't make people mad is a tax hike. Perdue says she won't push for that despite the seeming need for more state revenue.

"I think it is not good policy or good philosophy right now to try to look at cuts or eliminations with the hope of a new revenue source on the table," Perdue said.

The cuts are expected to come from every corner of government.

However, the one area Perdue says she wants to protect is education despite it making up nearly 60 percent of the state budget.

"If we go backwards on education, then our state goes backwards on economic development," she said. "You can't separate those two things."

What Perdue clearly does want to separate herself from is her predecessor.

Former Governor Mike Easley was recently convicted of a felony campaign finance violation and had his law license suspended.

Over the summer, Perdue's own campaign was fined tens of thousands of dollars for something very similar to what got Easley in trouble.

She blames her campaign staff.

And despite being part of two separate criminal investigations, Perdue says she doesn't see more trouble ahead.

"If you see the difference in the situation, all of the things that were discussed, I think there was a tremendous difference in the cases themselves," Perdue said. "I'm not privy to the information, but that doesn't keep me up at night."

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