On Thursday, early voting began in North Carolina. This election finds North Carolina at a crossroads: will we get our state back on track, or will we continue in the wrong direction?
Ten years ago, North Carolina ranked 24th in the country in teacher pay – near the national average. Today, thanks to Gov. Pat McCrory and the Republican takeover of the General Assembly, we are 41st in teacher pay and 43rd in per-pupil spending. Our students deserve better.
The only way to restore public education as a priority in North Carolina is to elect Roy Cooper as governor and break the Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. An excellent public education system attracts good jobs to our state. If we re-elect McCrory and Republicans remain in control, they will continue to undermine the foundation of the state’s economic success.
House Bill 2 also continues to damage North Carolina’s economy. McCrory signed HB2 in the middle of the night back in March without regard for the consequences. Since then, the state has lost thousands of jobs and $395 million in economic benefits. Not only has McCrory’s law hurt today’s workers by chasing away good-paying jobs, HB2 has cost us our reputation as a tolerant state and pushed the NBA, NCAA and ACC to move high-profile games to states that don’t discriminate.
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Even after all the economic damage wrought by HB2, McCrory and the Republicans refuse to repeal their disastrous law. The only way to repeal HB2 and bring back jobs, revenue and championship basketball is to vote for Democrats in the upcoming elections.
Even if we set aside the tremendous damage HB2 has done to our economy and our reputation, McCrory’s claims of a “Carolina Comeback” ring hollow. Most of the state’s economic gains have flowed to those at the very top, thanks to McCrory’s tax cuts for the wealthy and tax hikes on the rest of us. McCrory has raised taxes on the middle class in 67 different ways – you can see each of them at PatTaxedThat.com.
We have also seen stagnant wages thanks to destructive Republican policies like HB2 and McCrory’s failure to focus on broad-based economic growth. Cutting taxes for the wealthy and large corporations simply does not help the middle class or small business owners – the drivers of job growth. North Carolina needs a jobs governor, not an HB2 governor.
And we need a governor who is honest and transparent. McCrory cut education funding, but now claims he has raised teacher pay. He talks about raising teacher pay even as the Department of Public Instruction is being told to prepare for a 2 percent budget cut next year.
In addition, McCrory refuses to answer questions about his ties to Duke Energy. There’s at least an appearance of impropriety when McCrory – a former 30-year employee of Duke Energy – hands down a $6 million fine for coal-ash site cleanup efforts that are estimated to cost $10 billion. Voters deserve answers on how and why McCrory and his staff pressured top state scientist Dr. Ken Rudo to rescind do-not-drink orders for well owners near coal-ash sites. Instead, here again we are met with misinformation and deflections rather than the truth.
The future of our great state is at stake this election, but the choices we make will affect the entire country. It’s critical that every vote is cast. In 2008, President Obama won the state by just 14,000 votes and this year North Carolina could be the deciding state in the presidential election. If Hillary Clinton wins here, Donald Trump has no path to victory nationwide. That’s how much your vote matters.
Our choices are clear: Will we continue to move forward? Will we work together to build a greater North Carolina and a stronger United States? Or will we let ourselves be divided by fear, bigotry and hatred?
We are lucky to have great Democratic choices for races up and down the ballot, from the White House to the courthouse. I invite you to learn more about them at ncdp.org/candidates.
And then go vote. The future of our state and our country is in your hands. The stakes couldn’t be higher. If you have an absentee ballot, fill it out and mail it in. You can vote early until Nov. 5 and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. For more information on how and where to vote, please visit ncdp.org/voterinfo.
Patsy Keever is Chairwoman of the North Carolina Democratic Party.