Like all political candidates, Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue unleashed a barrage of promises during her 2008 gubernatorial campaign. Her to-do list was long and included pledges ranging from her version of “no new taxes” to free community college for all high school graduates. All too predictably, many of her campaign promises remain unfulfilled.
With her first year as North Carolina governor now complete, it seems an appropriate time to examine six major campaign promises Gov. Perdue has failed to keep.
Promise: No tax increase during a recession
In October of 2008, candidate Perdue declared "I don’t believe you can raise taxes in an economy with folks struggling the way they are.” Much was made about Perdue’s commitment to avoid tax hikes during a down economy, but the campaign promise didn’t survive the new Governor’s first year.1
Result: Perdue approved more than $1 billion in new taxes when she signed North Carolina’s fiscal year 2009-10 state budget. A one-cent increase in the state sales tax accounts for more than $800 million of the tax hike.
Promise: Expand state government health insurance program
Currently, a state Medicaid program supplement entitled NC Health Choice offers state insurance for children from families earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). As a candidate, Perdue promised to expand this state-subsidized health insurance coverage to parents in such families.2
More specifically, during the campaign Perdue promised to phase in the new program for parents in families earning up to 150 percent of FPL in her first year as Governor, and later expand coverage to the 200 percent of FPL level.3
Result: No such expansion took place in 2009.
Promise: Expand the state’s homestead exemption for seniors
The state of North Carolina offers property tax relief to low-income seniors age 65 and above, and also to those citizens of any age who are “totally and permanently disabled.” The program exempts from taxation “the greater of twenty five thousand dollars ($25,000) or fifty percent (50%) of the appraised value of the residence.”4
To be eligible, the recipient’s household income must be $25,000 or below (as of fiscal year 2008-09).
During her campaign, Perdue pledged to increase the maximum value of the exemption from $25,000 to $50,000. Perdue even claimed that she would “seek a constitutional amendment if necessary to implement the plan.”5
Result: No change was made to the homestead exemption in 2009.
Promise: Increase the state’s minimum wage
Candidate Perdue promised, “As Governor, I will work to raise the minimum wage an additional $1.00 beyond the federal level to $8.25.”6
Result: There was no change to North Carolina’s minimum wage law in 2009. In fact, Perdue abandoned her minimum wage increase plans before even being sworn in. Governor-elect Perdue stated in January 2009, “I look forward to continuing to push for a minimum wage increase, but my priority this year is to keep people working, and I’ve got folks who talk to me and are willing to take a less-than-minimum wage job right now just to have a paycheck."7
It remains puzzling how Perdue continues to support a minimum wage increase while simultaneously recognizing that the minimum wage prohibits jobs that otherwise would exist.
Promise: Free Community College education for all high school graduates
In her effort to campaign as a governor who will help make college more affordable, Perdue declared she will “make community college tuition free for all students who go on to community college after graduating high school.” Perdue didn’t make clear how much her initiative may cost or how she intended to pay for it.8
Result: Like the minimum wage pledge, Perdue reversed course on her community college promise before taking office. Citing the sluggish economy, Governor-elect Perdue said "I don’t believe that my first priority and first accomplishment will be free community college because of the budget (difficulties). It’s much harder than it was this time last year."9
Promise: State lottery funds to be used solely for education
In a 2008 Associated Press candidate questionnaire, candidate Perdue wrote that she would as Governor propose "a constitutional amendment to make sure that lottery funds stay dedicated to education."10
Result: One month after being sworn into office, Governor Perdue raided the $50 million Education Lottery Reserve Fund and diverted $37.6 million in lottery funds held in the Public School Building Capital Trust Fund, in order to help fulfill North Carolina’s fiscal year 2008-09 General Fund obligations. By August of 2009, however, the Capital Trust Fund dollars had been replenished.11
Gov. Perdue once again dug into lottery funds to finance the state government’s fiscal year 2009-10 general operations. Perdue approved a measure to suspend the practice of earmarking a share of the state corporate tax revenue for public school construction, which will divert $69 million from public school construction to the state’s General Fund this year.
Perdue’s pattern of diverting lottery funds targeted for public education to help finance the budget’s general operations are in clear violation of her pledge to “make sure that lottery funds stay dedicated to education.”
1 Rob Christensen, Benjamin Niolet, Lynn Bonner and Kevin Kiley; “Perdue’s position on taxes continues to evolve,” Raleigh News & Observer (July 26, 2009); available at: http://www.newsobserver.com/politics/columnists_blogs/dome/story/71231.html
2 Ryan Teague Beckwith, “Perdue on uninsured kids,” Under the Dome blog, newsobserver.com (November 9, 2007); available at: http://projects.newsobserver.com/blogs/perdue_on_uninsured_kids
3 Beckwith, “Perdue: Phase in parent coverage,” Under the Dome blog, newsobserver.com (November 14, 2007); available at: http://projects.newsobserver.com/blogs/perdue_phase_in_parents_coverage
4 G.S. 105-277.1; available at: http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_105/GS_105-277.1.html
5 Beckwith, “Perdue proposes property tax relief,” Under the Dome blog, newsobserver.com (March 14, 2008); available at: http://projects.newsobserver.com/under_the_dome/perdue_proposes_property_tax_relief
6 “Bev Perdue: Candidate for Governor,” Indy Week.com (April 23, 2008); available at: http://www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A231977
7 Mark Johnson, “Free tuition, minimum wage bump delayed,” Under the Dome blog, newsobserver.com (January 7, 2009); available at: http://projects.newsobserver.com/under_the_dome/free_tuition_min_wage_bump_delayed
9 Johnson, supra
10 Associated Press, “Perdue Taps Into NC Lottery Funds Early In Term,” mync.com (March 3, 2009); available at: http://www.mync.com/site/wake/news/story/28579/perdue-taps-into-nc-lottery-funds-early-in-term
11 “Governor returns funds to schools,” BlueRidgeNow.com, (August 29, 2009); available at: http://www.blueridgenow.com/article/20090829/SERVICES03/908291033