Senate leader Phil Berger challenged Gov. Bev Perdue to a debate over her plan to put a 3/4-cent sales tax increase into her budget proposal. Perdue said the revenue is needed for education.
Berger said Perdue is running a media campaign with news releases and public appearances, what he called "a one-sided debate" over the tax increase. He wants to respond.
"Let's give the people of North Carolina the opportunity to hear you articulate your rationale for why increasing taxes is the right thing to do at this time, and I will be in a position to articulate the position that the legislature has taken at this time, that that's not the right thing to do," Berger said.
After Berger, an Eden Republican announced his challenge, House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Mecklenburg County Republican, said he wanted in too.
Looks like it's not going to happen, though.
Perdue spokeswoman Christine Mackey said no, calling the debate challenge the legislative leaders' attempt to divert attention from the consequences of their budget.
“Republican leaders in the General Assembly need to stop wasting time with cheap stunts meant to distract attention from the damage they’ve done to North Carolina’s schools. They should stand up and take responsibility for passing a budget that eliminated more than 1,700 teacher positions and nearly 2,300 teacher assistant positions this year. Rather than playing useless political games, they should get to work and find a way to reverse the damage they’ve caused, and to prevent the even deeper cuts that are coming next year. North Carolina’s school children don’t need petty campaign theatrics; they need leaders who will make education a priority.”
Berger said he wanted to talk about the impact of this year's budget on education jobs and debate the notion that the Democrats' approach is best.
"I don't accept the premise that Democrat policy is good for education and Republican policy is not so good," Berger said.
He suggested that Perdue is employing a strategy of her reelection campaign. Consultants say "the governor's path to reelection is most likely to be successful if she can pick a fight with the legislature," he said. "What I think you're seeing is her picking that fight."