Senate leader wants to debate Perdue on sales tax

January 24, 2012 7:17:25 PM PST
The leader of the North Carolina Senate has invited Gov. Beverly Perdue to debate him about her planned state budget proposal this spring that would raise the sales tax to generate more money for public education.

Republican Sen. Phil Berger of Rockingham County offered the idea Tuesday at a news conference in Raleigh. Berger says the citizens of the state deserve to hear the governor and a legislative leader make their pitches.

"We need to have a forum where she can make her points, I can respond to them," said Berger. "She's not willing to debate the issue and the reason for that is that her position is indefensible."

The Democratic governor announced last week her spending plan would raise the sales tax by three-quarters of a penny to make up for the GOP-led Legislature's decision last year to let expire a penny increase in the sales tax.

Perdue refused the debate and her press secretary called it a "cheap stunt."

"Whatever Senator Berger and Representative Tillis want to say is great," said Perdue. "I look forward to seeing how they intend to provide the investments in education that are critical."

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity is even offering to host the debate with private money.

"What's more important to us is that North Carolinians are interested in this. This is a very important topic to them and we think that Gov. Perdue should have to make that case to the people. We think Senator Berger should have to make that case," said Chris Farr, with Americans for Prosperity.

But that offer has not swayed the governor. In a statement, Perdue once again blamed Republicans for the budget woes, saying: "Rather than playing useless political games, they should get to work and find a way to reverse the damage they've caused, and to prevent the even deeper cuts that are coming next year."

"She may think that dialogue and debate is a cheap stunt," said Berger. "I think it's an appropriate way for us to articulate our message and for the people to make up their minds."

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