Barrett criticizes Easley
By Ned B. Hunter, Rocky Mount Telegram
TARBORO – Republican
gubernatorial candidate Dan Barrett said Tuesday that if Gov. Mike
Easley had worked with legislators to control state spending, he would
not have been forced to withhold county revenues to balance the state
"The governor and the
legislature had two choices, find a way to control spending within the
operating budget or raid the capital fund budget – such as the monies
designated for the Highway Trust Fund and the State Employee Pension
Fund," he said. "They chose to dip into our future funds, our future
pools of money."
Barrett, 44, is a Winston-Salem
attorney and former Davie County commissioner who traveled Tuesday to
the Twin Counties speaking to voters in restaurants, hospitals and
courthouse hallways about his plan to restore fiscal responsibility to
state government and improve North Carolina's economy.
He said the governor's decision to withhold revenues from local governments impeded their ability to serve residents.
"The work gets done across the
state through the local governments, by towns and by counties," Barrett
said to reporters in Cottons Restaurant in Tarboro. "The recent seizure
of hundreds of millions of dollars that goes to local governments ...
has had a profound effect upon our citizens across the state through
the loss of services and in increases in property and sales taxes."
Matt McCorkle, consultant for the Easley campaign, said Barrett needed to "get a hold on his facts."
"We're proud of the governor's
fiscal management," he said. "We are ranked fourth in the nation in
budget management by USA Today, the budget is around $14.7 billion,
which is less than what he was handed by his predecessor (former Gov.
Jim Hunt), and we are one of the few states with a AAA bond rating."
An opponent of the lottery, Barrett said passing a lottery is no guarantee lawmakers will increase education spending.
"States that have put the
lottery in place are not spending any more on education than they did
before," he said. "It simply goes into the general fund, and until we
stop raiding the general fund, there is no guarantee the funds will go
Rather than a lottery, Barrett
said he would work to improve the state's overall tax burden on
business to entice industry and help small businesses grow.
"Our tax rate is not
competitive, both corporate and personal," he said. "If it is out of
line you have trouble attracting and keeping businesses in our state.
My goal is to have the lowest tax rate in the Southeast."
Before implementing his plans to
improve the state's economy, Barrett must first wrestle a win in the
Republican gubernatorial primary in May from five other Republican
hopefuls. N.C. Sen. Minority Leader Patrick Ballantine, R-New Hanover,
former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot, who was defeated by Easley in
2000, businessman George Little of Southern Pines, former N.C. GOP
Chairman Bill Cobey, and N.C. Sen. Fern Shubert, R-Union, are all vying
for the honor to challenge Easley in the November election.
Ballantine is the Republican
front-runner in fund-raising, having raised approximately $1.2 million
in funds, according to his campaign office on Tuesday.
But Barrett said it takes more than raising money to win a campaign.
"I think the people of North
Carolina are concerned with who can be the best governor rather than
who can raise the most money at cocktail parties," he said.
Ballantine said his ability to raise campaign funds means Tar Heel voters believe he is the best candidate.
"We are proud of our
fund-raising efforts," he said from his campaign headquarters on
Barrett Drive in Raleigh. "We're receiving money from farmers and
seniors for as little as $5. We are rasing money because people are
supporting our campaign."
Barrett has raised more than $200,000 in campaign funds as of Tuesday, according to his campaign office.