State leaders must come up with a way to cover a $3.5 billion hole in next year's finances.
"Join me in focusing like a laser to define what the core missions are," she told them.
The idea of core missions resonates strongly with state Republicans who make up the new majority in the legislature.
"We hope that when we do that, the budget will only contain what the Governor considers to be core programs, and if there are non-core ones, they're identified as that so it will help facilitate our budget process and the tough decisions we may have to make," offered House Speaker-elect Thom Tillis.
Many Democrats worry those tough decisions will include severe cuts in education, which makes up nearly 60 percent of the budget.
"My greatest fear is that the policies of the incoming Republican legislature will decimate public education, public universities, and community colleges," offered outgoing Speaker Joe Hackney. "Firing 15-20 thousand school teachers is not something I'm going to participate in."
"It's great rhetoric, but who here runs to decimate the most important thing that we have in this state?" asked Tillis.
Tillis is quick to point out other ways to help make up the three and a half billion dollars.
"It's not all about cutting. It's about how can you do things that are stimulative" he said.
Tillis points to privatization, regulation reform, fewer mandates, one-time benefits - much of which Perdue has spoken in favor of - and that's not lost on the Speaker-elect.
"I took everything the Governor said today in a very constructive way," said Tillis.
Most agree it was a good starting point, but it's a long road ahead. The legislature doesn't officially convene until late January.