Name: W. A. (Winkie) Wilkins

Party: Democratic

DOB: Jan. 31, 1941

Campaign Website: N/A

Occupation & employer: retired news writer/editor; 30 years with The Courier-Times, a Roxboro, NC, bi-weekly

Years lived in NC: All my life

Answer to Question 1:
The most pressing issue in this state is the unemployment rate. Coupled with that is the need for job-training equipment in our community colleges. In terms of K-12 education, it is imperative that we reduce the dropout rate. A continued high dropout rate means that those dropouts will have a very difficult time competing for jobs. To address the need for jobs, I will continue to workas I have for the past five yearsin support of programs that will bring jobs into the state, programs such as the One NC Fund and the Job Development Incentive Grant program. I am also currently working on a new bill that would give tax credits to small businesses that create new jobs. Speaker Hackney has emphasized the importance of reducing the dropout rate. He helped to establish a dropout prevention grant program, which I supported and will continue to support. The program is just now beginning to show signs of decreasing the dropout rate. In my time in the legislature, I have supported additional funding for community colleges for job training and retraining equipment. I will continue to do so.

Answer to Question 2:
Just as is the case with all of North Carolina, the need for jobs is the number one need in District 55. That is especially true of Person County, which has a jobless rate of over 12 percent. As in Question 1, the programs that will work for North Carolina will certainly work for my district.

Answer to Question 3:
I am particularly well-position in the House to address job creation, economic development in general, K-12 education matters and matters that concern community colleges. I am on the Appropriations Committee. I am a vice-chairman on the Appropriations Sub-Committee on Natural and Economic Resources (which recommends budgeting for the departments of Commerce, Labor and Agriculture and DENR). I am a vice-chairman on the Committee on Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship. I am a member of the big Education Committee and a member of the Education Sub-Committee on Community Colleges.

Answer to Question 4:
I am certain that some would seek to characterize me as a “moderate” Democrat. I characterize myself as a “business-friendly” Democrat. Prior to entering the House of Representatives, I spent my entire working life in the small business sector. I fully understand that small business is the primary economic engine in North Carolina. I have found it most interesting recently that virtually every candidate for office in this state is now saying that job creation and economic development are the items that most need addressing in this state. When it comes to that, I am certainly not a new kid on the block. I have been stressing job creation and economic development since the day I was sworn in to the House five years ago.

Answer to Question 5:
My record may speak most loudly to this question. I supported legislation that created the North Carolina Innocence Commission. I supported The Racial Justice Act, which came before the House just a few short months ago. These are two bills that go to the heart of justice.

Answer to Question 6:
I believe those of us who serve in the House are in that crucible on many, many votes. Again, I resort to my record. The smoking regulation bill of this past long session is an example. Remember, my district is primarily rural and still produces a significant amount of tobacco. When, the smoking bill first came to the House floor it was in a very restrictive form, in fact it was in the form that eventually became law. On the House floor, however, an amendment was offered that made the bill less restrictive to businesses. I voted in favor of the amendment, which passed, and then voted in favor of the amended bill. I lost a friend because of that vote. He refused to hear my explanation of what exactly I had voted for. That former friend now refuses to speak to me.

Answer to Question 7:

Povertythe Earned Income Tax Credit is the best way to help our poor. In North Carolina, the EITC needs to be raised. Transportation needswe cannot simply continue to widen roads in metropolitan areas. That’s why I’m happy that it now appears that a Triangle area rail transit system has a chance to develop. It’s interesting that a Triangle rail system would benefit part of my district, but it would have little, if any, effect on Person County. For Person County, mass transit will have to continue to be a bus system. Crowded prisonsI have long been an advocate of the statewide Sentencing Services program. I have seen it work well in some counties in which judges really took the recommendations of the Sentencing Services staff members seriously. These Sentencing Services staff members researched alternative forms of sentencing and made to judges recommendations that would best suit the particular convicted person. Alas, the lack of state funds brought on by the recession caused the General Assembly to withdraw funding from the Sentencing Services program during the past long session. Health careAt this point, now that federal health care reform has been passed, North Carolina and other states are likely in a wait-and-see position when it comes to adult health insurance. However, in the instance of children, North Carolina is already well ahead of the curve because of its own program of health insurance for our young ones. The matter of health care availability is quite another matter in many of our rural communities. In some of those communities, health care providers are simply not present or not present in adequate numbers. That’s one reason I am such a strong supporter of the Rural Center, which receives funding through my appropriations sub-committee, the Sub-Committee on NER. A portion of Rural Center funds is used for the center’s rural health care program.

ForeclosuresI believe the General Assembly has already taken a forward step in this process. Legislation requires adequate notice when a foreclosure seems to be likely and it requires the lending institution to work with the individual in an attempt to avoid foreclosure. Energy: yes, I would likely vote to allow off-shore drilling. About “other initiatives,” this state is just beginning to move into the alternative energy forms that were incorporated in Senate Bill 3 of 2007. Right now, solar alternatives are the most widely used, but Senate Bill 3 will continue to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels for many years to come. Mental healththe General Assembly’s Mental Health Oversight Committee has made significant progress in recent weeks. Rules will come out of that committee to allow mental health consumers to stay with a comprehensive medical “home,” which will allow them to remain in one place for treatment. Also, Local Management Entities will have more authority to seek competition among those who are vying to become providers of the needed services. The Oversight Committee believes these two changes will promote better care and most cost-efficient care. Taxeswhen the General Assembly enacted some new and higher taxes during the 2009 long session, many legislators were absolutely stretched to the limit of what amount they could vote for. For me, increasing taxes was certainly not the thing I wanted to do. However, the recession had so greatly limited available funds that some really critical services would have been eliminated without that tax package. The number of additional school teaching positions that would have been lost would have been, I believe, 1,300. In-home services for our older citizens would have been virtually non-existent. About regression, yes, some of our tax mechanisms are regressive. Right now, the General Assembly’s Revenue Laws Study Committee is looking into alternative methods of taxation. One topic being covered in that committee is the possibility of taxing services. This was originally a Senate proposal, one brought on, I understand, because our North Carolina economy has become more service-oriented and less product-oriented. I await the findings of that committee. School vouchersI would not be in favor of state-issued vouchers to be used to pay for private schooling.

Answer to Question 8:
I continue to support the death penalty. However, my record also shows that I have supported mechanisms for intensive review of death penalty cases, convictions and sentences. Again, I point to my support of the N. C. Innocence Commission and the Racial Justice Act.

Answer to Question 9:
I would likely support the institution of civil unions. I’m not certain about the wording “protected class” as used in the question, but I would hope North Carolina has reached the point at which it is ready to call for the elimination of discrimination for any reason based on traits. That rationale was at the base of the anti-bullying bill, a bill that I strongly supported.

Answer to Question 10:
I have always believed that a woman should have the “right to choose” and I held that belief even before Roe vs Wade. The “medically accurate sex education” alluded to in the question is soon to become available statewide, following the passage of The Health Youth Act in 2009. Guidelines for The Health Youth Act are currently being drawn. I was a primary sponsor of The Health Youth Act in the House.

Answer to Question 11:
No, I don’t believe so.

Answer to Question 12:
I believe part of this question has been answered in responses to Question 1 and Question 2. Stated again, the state should continue to offer incentives for job creation. And, the best incentive this state has is the Job Development Incentive Grant (JDIG) program. It allows for the company to retain part of the state withholding tax for employees whose jobs were created within the scope of JDIG guidelines. I believe the state needs to be more active in helping to create jobs within the small business sector. My role will continue to be the same as it has been for the past five years. In NER Sub-Committee, I will continue to support the One NC Fund, the One NC Small Business Fund and the Green Business Fund.

Answer to Question 13:
I will favor a balanced strategy for reducing agency and program budgets. In the 2009 Long Session, the General Assembly, I believe, did a thorough job of examining individual budgets with an eye toward reducing unwarranted or unneeded or ineffective programs and toward eliminating overlaps. Since that difficult work has already been done, it appears to me that the only approach left for the short session is one that would make across-the-board cuts. Keep in mind, we do have a bit of one-time money (coming from collections of past-due corporate taxes) that can be used during the short session. However, that is one-time money and many of the shortfalls in agency and program budgets will be found in recurring line items.