Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s relationship with the Republicans controlling the N.C. General Assembly hasn’t exactly been rosy, but the man hoping to replace her believes he would fare better.
“You do have to work with them,” Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton said Tuesday afternoon during a campaign stop in Surry County — which is part of a journey he hopes will end with a new job at the Governor’s Mansion.
“We’re traveling a lot,” Dalton said of his entourage.
In recent years, Gov. Perdue has been at odds with GOP legislators over reduced funding for education and other budgetary and state government issues.
But Dalton, 63, who served six terms in the state Senate before being elected lieutenant governor, believes he could work with the Legislature given his status as a former insider.
“I think I have great respect on both sides of the aisle,” Dalton, an attorney by trade who hails from Rutherfordton, said during an interview Tuesday in Mount Airy.
“I think the first thing you do is get together and see what you can agree on,” the candidate said of his plans to establish common ground with the rival party — while still recognizing there are philosophical differences between the two.
“At the end of the day, it is the government of the people.”
But in order to implement his plans, Dalton will need a victory over Republican Pat McCrory in the November general election in order to replace Perdue, who opted not to seek a second term as governor.
State At “Crossroads”
Dalton believes the upcoming election could be the most important in this state in his lifetime.
“The message that I have is that North Carolina is truly at a crossroads right now,” he said Tuesday.
One issue over which he takes offense with the GOP-controlled Legislature involves a move to slash funding for economic development, which Dalton believes will impact rural areas such as Surry County in particular.
“At a time when we’re hurting for jobs,” the candidate said of Republicans, “they cut that very deeply…when I don’t think we can afford to cut that deeply.”
The General Assembly also has reduced needs-based financial aid for higher education, but managed to provide money for tax breaks for richer citizens such as lawyers and other professionals, according to Dalton.
“Their cuts are putting North Carolina on the wrong path,” he added of overall reductions by the Republican leadership. These include the elimination of thousands of teacher jobs and funding for early childhood programs as well as community colleges and universities, Dalton said.
Though everyone knows jobs are the most-critical need in North Carolina, Dalton says meeting it will require both a short- and long-term view.
“We’ve got to create jobs now, but also for the future,” he said Tuesday.
Health is a key area for employment due to an aging population that is “not going to go to China or India,” Dalton added.
Preparing workers to meet such demand is a key both now and in years to come, with Dalton believing that North Carolina’s community college system and its training resources are essential in this regard — including helping displaced workers enter new fields.
Dalton’s track record in education includes writing the Innovative Education Act, which established the state’s early college system. Early colleges directly partner high schools with a higher education partner and provide a unique learning experience.
He also developed the JOBS (Joining Our Businesses and Schools) Commission, a nationally recognized program that partners businesses and schools to retool education programs to better fit an evolving job market. In addition, Dalton chairs the Logistics Task Force, whose mission is to support employers and industries by improving the way people, goods and information move throughout the state.
In further discussing his platform Tuesday, Dalton said he believes tax reform is needed in North Carolina “to recognize more of a service-based rather than manufacturing-based economy.”
He thinks innovation and creativity will be required of the next governor if the state is to have a bright future.
“I hope people will look at my record and my vision for North Carolina,” he said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or email@example.com.