"I was honored by the trust placed in me by my colleagues in the North Carolina House to serve as Democratic Leader. We must work together to put North Carolina back on the right track and restore the public’s trust in our state government."
Pay Raises for Teachers and Public Employees
North Carolina lags far behind the national average for teacher pay, the latest numbers put us $10,000 behind. We need competitive pay to attract and keep the best teachers.
Last session we created a $15 minimum wage for some public employees which was a very good thing, but many public employees were left out - particularly those who work in our schools. We need a $15 minimum wage for all public employees. The workers who provide public services, serve school lunches, and keep our public buildings clean and safe deserve to make at least a living wage.
The problem is past legislative budgets have prioritized tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires instead of pay raises for teachers and other public employees. That is why we have fallen behind other states.
Expand Medicaid to Close the Coverage Gap and Help Lower Health Care Costs
We can increase access to affordable health care by expanding Medicaid. 37 red and blue states have expanded Medicaid, including Indiana, Ohio and now Utah, Nebraska and Idaho. If North Carolina expanded Medicaid and closed the coverage gap it would give more than 500,000 people access to affordable health insurance.
Covering more uninsured people lowers everyone else’s premiums. When uninsured people need care, they often go to the one place that won’t turn them away: the ER. The ER is an expensive care setting, and when patients can’t pay, hospitals often eat the cost. Hospitals offset that loss by charging higher rates for insured patients, called “cost-shifting,” and that translates into higher premiums for every individual and employer who buys health insurance. Premiums for people who buy their own health insurance are 7% lower in states that have expanded Medicaid than in states that haven’t.
Expanding Medicaid is good for business. A 2014 analysis found that expanding Medicaid in North Carolina would create 43,000 jobs over 5 years. Many of these jobs would go to the 44 rural NC counties where a hospital is one of 5 biggest employers. NC taxpayers are already helping to pay for closing the coverage gap in other states, we should to bring some of those federal tax dollars back home.
This is the right time to expand Medicaid.
Building a Workforce for Tomorrow
Wage growth for workers has not kept pace with economic growth. This is a problem nationally, not just in North Carolina.
North Carolina can help people earn more money by investing in public education and job training. This is also the single best thing we can do to attract jobs to North Carolina. Businesses of all sizes want access to educated and trained workers.
How do we make sure North Carolinians are ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow?
Fund Governor Cooper's Finish Line grants that help community college students on the cusp of graduation but facing financial hardships finish their education.
Invest in our local community colleges.
Offer more free training opportunities at community colleges so that students can overcome financial barriers and get the education and training they need.
An Economy That Works for Everyone
Equal pay for equal work should be at the core of our economic policy. That is the only way everyone can have an opportunity to succeed in business or the workplace.
We need to make sure laws regarding overtime and contracting are in place that ensure workers get to keep what they earn.
North Carolina used to be known as the Good Roads State. With low interest rates, it is time to invest in the bridges, roads, and infrastructure we need to bring North Carolina into the 21st century.
Every region of the state deserves the chance to compete and thrive, and that means fast internet everywhere. North Carolina has prospered in the past thanks to far-sighted investments in roads and schools. Now we need the same investment for how ideas and information move in the 21st century.
Farmers, small business owners, students, and teachers will all struggle to succeed without access high-speed internet. North Carolina should provide grants to local governments to provide internet to underserved communities, grants for "last mile" internet service, and wi-fi on school buses in areas where students lack access at home.