Name as it appears on the ballot: Cynthia Ball
Campaign website: www.CynthiaforNC.com
Phone number: 919-602-2735 (cell)
Years lived in the district: 5 (33 lived in Wake County)
1. In your view, what are the three most pressing issues North Carolina faces? If elected, what will you do to address these issues?
For months, I have been meeting voters at their doors, on the phone, and at events in neighborhoods throughout District 49 to listen to the issues that are most important to them and their families. Again and again voters remind me that our Legislature’s top priority should be strengthening North Carolina’s public schools. I will vote to raise teacher pay to the national average, restore per-pupil spending to pre-recession levels, and build solutions that benefit all North Carolina children and their families, not just a few. Second, we need a full repeal of HB2. This discriminatory law has been extremely destructive to our state, with numerous businesses and events pulling out of NC, deciding not to come, or not even considering us in the first place. Third, we have to rebuild our tax structure to reduce the burden on middle and working class families. Instead of top-end tax cuts that only benefit a few people, we should bring back the Earned Income Tax Credit and find other ways to raise revenues than those new service taxes that are regressive, taxing things like auto repairs. Our economy needs to work for ALL North Carolinians.
2. If you are challenging an incumbent, what decisions has the incumbent made that you most disagree with? If you are an incumbent, what in your voting record and experience do you believe entitles you to another term?
The incumbent has made a number of errors in judgment that have hurt NC families and the State as a whole. The most recent and highest profile has been his failure to stand up and vote against HB2; instead, he decided instead not to show up for the vote in March (to avoid being “harassed” as he recently said in an N&O interview), and then quickly demonstrated his support by placing his business on a list of supporters and telling voters directly and in a release from his Legislative office that he supported it. Only after the recent serious hits we’ve taken from announcements from the ACC and the NCAA, public pressures including my campaign’s call for him to ask for a Special Session and support a Repeal, and the possibility that his stand would cost him votes in the election as he told the N&O, has he very recently tried to pull back from his support. Also, last year he attempted to pass a Religious Freedom bill (similar to one in Indiana) that would have done grave damage. And he has voted 97% of the time with the far-right leadership in the NCGA that has underfunded our teachers and schools, raised taxes on the middle class, rolled back environmental regulations, attempted to disenfranchise voters, and more.
3. The most contentious issue of this year―and this election―has been HB 2, especially in light of the NCAA’s decision to pull its championships from the Tar Heel state. Do you believe that the law has provided any benefits to North Carolina? Do you believe it should be repealed root and branch? If not, in what ways would you like to alter it?
HB2 has hurt our state in many ways. Not only has it marred our reputation (hopefully, not permanently), but it legalizes discrimination against some of our most vulnerable citizens, has cost us thousands of jobs and events (not just the one’s we heard of, but countless companies and groups that will never even consider NC while HB2 is in effect), interferes with our cities’ local rule decisions to do what’s best for them, and has made all kinds of discrimination much tougher to remedy. HB2 needs to be completely repealed, no strings attached.
4. Currently, twenty-nine states have minimum wages above the federal minimum. North Carolina is not among them. Do you believe North Carolina should raise its minimum wage―or, alternatively, give municipalities the ability to raise minimum wages within their jurisdictions?
Wages have been stagnant for many years, and North Carolina’s working people have fallen behind. Given NC’s economic diversity between urban and rural areas, a statewide minimum wage increase might not be the most prudent course of action, but our cities should have the ability to raise the minimum wage to a rate that is consistent with and beneficial for their local economic and competitive circumstances.
5. In a similar vein: beyond the bathroom issue, HB 2 also overrode local antidiscrimination ordinances, which has become something of a pattern in recent years, with the legislature preempting local governments from passing laws it doesn’t like. Do you believe the state too often intrudes into local affairs? Why or why not?
The state absolutely has overstepped its authority when it comes to municipal governments. North Carolina is a big, diverse state. Our cities, towns, and counties need to be able to pass laws and enforce policies that work for them. And several legislative actions have been ruled by the courts as unconstitutional, such as the redistricting the Wake County School Board and Board of Commissioners, showing that this Legislature has often voted to take NC in the wrong and unconstitutional direction.
6. What, in your view, is an ideal salary for a beginning teacher? If it is more than the $35,000 currently being earned by beginning teachers in North Carolina, how would you work with your colleagues to increase teacher pay?
$35,000 is a moderately competitive salary for a starting teacher, although it could be higher to attract more talented people to enter the profession in NC, especially given the hits we’ve taken recently with teachers leaving or retiring early. The larger problem with the current pay scale is the low pay rates for educators as they gain valuable experience. This keeps teachers from remaining in the profession here in NC, and puts more strain on our already depleted University teaching programs. We’ve raised teacher pay to the national average before and can do it again. The money is there, it can be redirected from the vouchers program (which will place an increased burden on our budget if the current acceleration schedule for the “opportunity scholarship” program is kept in place), and from the “rainy day fund”.
7. A federal appeals court struck down the state law requiring voter ID and containing other voting restrictions. Do you agree or disagree with that decision? Please explain your position.
I agree 100% with the decision to strike down NC’s voter ID (etc.) law. Voting is a fundamental, constitutionally guaranteed right that should not be restricted or discouraged, but instead should be made more accessible to everyone.
8. In recent months, two public servants in the Department of Health and Human Services have accused administration officials of minimizing the risks that Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds pose to nearby water wells. Do you believe the state has taken the proper safeguards to protect drinking water?
No. Our current leadership (Governor and General Assembly) has clearly made it a greater priority to protect the profits of big polluters like Duke Energy than to protect our drinking water and prioritize the needs and rights of rate-paying residents.
9. The current administration has been frequently criticized by environmental advocates over things like, for instance, the cleanup of Jordan Lake. Do you believe these criticisms are warranted? In what ways do you believe the state’s current environmental policies have succeeded or failed? What would you like to improve?
Yes, current leadership (both in the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly) has not safeguarded NC’s environment. The wasteful “attempt” to clean up Jordan Lake with Solar Bees has been a boondoggle, and is only one example on a long list of ways the current leadership has allowed polluters to avoid protective regulations. They’ve also approved dangerous fracking, rolled back incentives for the solar and wind power industries, and possibly worst of all, they have hidden the effects of the Duke Coal Ash spill while making ratepayers pay for the clean-up.
10. Democrats have called for an expansion of Medicaid, which would provide health coverage for 244,000 North Carolinians. Would you support such a move? Why or why not?
Yes. Not only would it improve health outcomes for North Carolinians, it would create more than 17,000 new, well-paying jobs, all at little cost to the state. And this expansion would be especially beneficial to the more rural parts of our State that have lost or are at risk of losing hospitals and other medical services.
11. Similarly, in recent months two large insurers have decided not to issue policies on North Carolina’s Affordable Care Act exchange, which puts those on the individual market in something of a precarious situation. What do you believe the state can or should do to improve its citizens’ health care?
In addition to accepting the Medicaid expansion, there are a few things we can do right now that will greatly improve healthcare in NC. We can do a better job taking care of our healthcare workers. Additionally, we MUST renew our commitment to mental health care and find resources to address this cruel epidemic that is hurting our citizens and costing us more financial resources than early interventions.
12. Name three things you would change in the current state budget and, if your changes would free up money, what your spending priorities would be.
1) We need to end the starving impact of the school vouchers program, and re-invest tax dollars in our public schools- not just teacher salaries, but into academic support and classroom supplies.
2) Especially with the damage being done to our reputation by HB2, we need to reinvest in job-creating incentives such as the Solar Tax Credit and the Film Incentives. And we need to find ways to help small businesses, the very basis of a strong economy.
3) We should rebuild our tax structure to reduce the burden on middle and working class families. Instead of structures that benefit those at the very top and large out-of-state corporations, we should bring back the Earned Income Tax Credit and find other sources for tax revenues that are not regressive (e.g. the new sales taxes on auto repairs and other services).
13. Give an example of a time, during your political career, when you have changed your position as a result of a discussion with someone who held an opposing view.
I am a first-time candidate, so I have no political career history. But as a candidate, I have made a priority to talk with people who represent a diversity of opinions from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. One specific issue that I have studied and discussed with many others is the idea of a standard statewide increase in the minimum wage. I have learned that some already struggling small businesses in rural areas of the State would not be able to incorporate the level of increase in the minimum wage that might be competitive and workable in the metropolitan areas. We must find common ground and work towards solutions that are best for ALL of our State. We face very serious challenges in public education, general and mental health services, public safety and criminal justice, environmental protection, shared economic prosperity, and quality of life. And we live in what is the most highly partisan time in our government and public opinion that I can recall. People are frustrated with the rancor in politics and the failure of political parties to really solve our problems – their problems. So, as a professional mediator, I am committed to listening and learning, finding common ground with others who think of public policy development differently than I might. And to that end, I will work with ALL of my colleagues in the NC House and Senate to find solutions that are the best for the common good of all North Carolinians. We will have a divided and less effective government until we find ways to work together, moving beyond our own belief systems to truly hear and consider others’ viewpoints.