Medicaid must be expanded immediately. It would cost this state ZERO dollars (90% will be paid by the federal program, the other 10% by hospital assessments). It’s estimated that expanding Medicaid would create 40,000 new North Carolina jobs, bring $4 billion into our economy each year, expand coverage to 500,000 people who are currently uninsured, and save roughly 1,000 lives every year. Yes, that’s One Thousand Lives EVERY Year. That last estimate alone means that not expanding Medicaid is allowing 1,000 North Carolinians to die unnecessarily every single year. That is unacceptable.
Also, since 2010 the states who did not expand Medicaid have seen more closures of rural hospitals. The rural hospitals serving the 30th District (Caswell, Rockingham, Stokes, and Surry counties) are not only important to our wellbeing, they are some of the major employers of our communities. Having financially strong rural hospitals keeps us healthier, but it also saves jobs and helps Economic Development officials recruit new businesses.
When we open minds through education, we open up endless possibilities to the great things our children can do and become. The North Carolina Constitution says, “The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right.” Our state Constitution also guarantees equality. In order to deliver on those rights, I believe every public dollar spent on education should be spent in our public schools. I plan to work with educators to develop and implement a 10-year plan that would propel our state toward a #1 ranking in pre-K through 12th grade education. Money is never the sole answer to any challenge, however when we are falling short on per student spending or allowing any public dollars to become profits for private institutions, we are neglecting the rights of our youngest citizens and worsening the chances of our state’s greatest future.
I was raised in a family-owned-and-operated dry cleaners in Eden. The income of that business fed and housed my family, as well as the employees who worked there. I learned the importance of every customer, especially the ones who called our house on Sunday mornings because they had forgotten to pick up the suit they needed to wear to church. In my father’s eyes, we were never closed. Small businesses like that are the heart of our communities. Larger employers also depend on thriving small businesses to support the needs of their businesses and their employees. And small businesses depend on large employers to employ many of our citizens, who then use the services of businesses like the one I grew up in. We must also keep in mind that in recruiting large employers, we are asking their executives to move their families to our community. Those families will want to know we can give their kids a great education and that if any emergency arises, we have dependable healthcare nearby.
Let me add this about a market I’m uniquely qualified to talk about. The Governor has recently created an Advisory Council for Film, Television, and Digital Streaming because he understands the benefits of seeing the film industry rebound in North Carolina. After graduating with a degree in theatre from Appalachian in 1991, I lived out some dreams of working in New York and Los Angeles with legends like Debbie Reynolds, Della Reese, and the stars of my favorite soap opera, Guiding Light. My goal was to get some experience and then return home to work on productions filmed in NC. Just as I was ready to come back, our General Assembly pulled the film incentives and replaced them with a less competitive program which caused most productions to pack up and leave this state. In 2019, television and film spent $2.9 billion in Georgia. We have the studios and skilled labor here in our state. In fact, many of our residents who currently work in that industry must go to Georgia and other states for months at a time to work. And, that $2.9 billion wasn’t just spent on big Hollywood stars. Each production employs hundreds of people. Those employees and the production companies then spend money in hotels, restaurants, dry cleaners, and lots of other local businesses. When you add in those multipliers, low estimates say that Georgia got closer to $6 billion in overall economic impact in 2019 from TV and film. It’s time to bring some of that money and work back to North Carolina.
The counties of Caswell, Rockingham, Stokes, and Surry offer some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. In my hometown of Eden, we boast that we’re the “Land of Two Rivers.” One of those rivers suffered a coal ash spill a few years ago. The cleanup is reported to have been successful, but it should be a wake-up call for all of us either way. Yes, we must make some provisions for businesses to thrive for the good of our communities, but not at the expense of our health and well-being. Our children and their children and all the heirs who will live on this land long after we’re gone depend on us to use it responsibly now.
From a health perspective, our bodies depend on clean air and water. From an economic perspective, it’s no good promoting our rivers if the water can’t be used by our tourists and businesses. We must find a balance in economic interests that both serves us and provides needed protections for our natural resources. Putting the health and safety of the people in our communities first must always be our top priority.
Politicians should not be the ones drawing their own political districts. It is time to create an independent redistricting commission with a state Constitutional amendment to guarantee fair elections. Courts have forced the NC Legislature to redraw maps this year, but those duties went back to the same people who had drawn the last illegal districts… and the ones before that. It’s like catching a burglar, telling him not to do it again, and then giving him the keys to the house he just got caught breaking into. Republicans defend their actions saying Democrats did the same thing for years. I say it’s time to stop anyone from doing it because cheating should never be acceptable behavior. It’s not allowed in a kindergarten classroom, and it shouldn’t be allowed in the General Assembly.