CaryCitizen: Roundtable at the Governor’s Mansion

Story and photos by Hal Goodtree.

Raleigh, NC – A small group of journalists from across the state gathered at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh on Thursday to spend an hour chatting with North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue. CaryCitizen was there.

The State Budget

Many questions revolved around the coming budget for North Carolina. The State faces a $3 billion shortfall.

Responding to improved economic indicators, Gov. Perdue said she thinks that 2011 will be better than 2010, and that the most recent numbers seem to confirm that “recovery is coming along more quickly than anyone hoped.”

The Governor told the assembled journalists that she had worked the $3 billion gap down to about $900 million in her draft budget.

Preserving “The Core”

Several times, Governor Perdue referred to “preserving the core” functions of government as her yardstick in measuring competing budgetary demands. She said she intended to “protect” K-3 education. “You give them good core skills and they’re on their way,” the Governor said.

Liquor Stores

As the conversation shifted between subjects, education, privitization and the budget became intertwined with state liquor sales. Perdue said she did not see state run liquor stores (ABC stores) as a “core service” of government. In fact, she said, North Carolina is one of the few states that have ABC stores.

The Governor said she was looking forward to getting an evaluation back after the New Year on ABC privatization.

Federal Stimulus Money For High Speed Rail

The railroad has always played an important role in Cary. It runs through the center of our town.

I asked the Governor about news that two Governors-elect (John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin) have announced they will not take federal stimulus money for high-speed rail because it imposes too big a financial obligation on the states. North Carolina is one of twelve states to accept federal funds for HSR.

“It might be political rhetoric,” she said. She pointed out that Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina had sworn off federal recovery money but the state had ending up receiving funding.

Governor Perdue confirmed support for investment in rail across the state. She also cautioned about the alternative: Thursday morning, she had spoken to a company interested in locating to North Carolina, but concerned about our lack of public transportation infrastructure.

New Hill

Water is another key issue or Cary. I asked Governor Perdue if she saw an opportunity for Executive leadership to break the logjam between residents, towns, landowners, legislators and activists on the New Hill Water Treatment plant.

She said she asked the Secretary (Dee Freeman, Department of Environmental and Natural Resources) to broker a compromise. The Governor said she tries not to micromanage local issues, but “if there comes a time when I have to get in, I will.”

Steel Magnolias

The Executive Mansion is beautiful at Christmas. I looked at the oil paintings of Governors from years gone by. I had some of the Mansion’s very fine chocolate cookies.

The Governor seemed a little weighed down buy the budget crisis, by two grinding years of tough decisions. But she said she maintained her resolve. “It’s a little like Steel Magnolias – blond hair and blue eyes and all,” Governor Perdue said.  “But I can make hard decisions.”

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