Farmer-Butterfield, McNeil talk issues

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In the N.C. House of Representatives District 24 race, Democratic incumbent Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield faces challenger John G. McNeil.

In an effort to provide readers some background on the primary candidates, The Wilson Times asked each to complete a brief questionnaire. Responses were limited to 100 words or fewer. Responses are published in alphabetical order by candidates’ last names.

Early voting began Thursday and ends Feb. 29. North Carolina’s primary election will be held on March 3.

Why do you believe you ARE the best candidate to provide Wilson County with effective representation?

Farmer-Butterfield: “I am the best candidate due to my experience in the role and successful accomplishments. A few include: getting water and sewer for Elm City, helping get grants for clean water in Lucama, incentives to keep Bridgestone/Firestone from leaving Wilson, keeping good jobs in my hometown for working families and their children, fighting to keep the school for the deaf from closing, helping get $6 million for Highway 301 east Wilson, getting the psychiatric inpatient unit at the hospital, two early colleges in our schools, advocating for both charter schools in Wilson to get state dollars and more.”

McNeil: “I believe the representative for District 24 should be someone who serves all citizens of Wilson County and addresses their issues year ‘round — not just during election time. I will be the kind of representative that is hands-on. I’m from Wilson, and I will work to bring jobs to this town to help grow the economy. Let’s bring grocery stores and gas stations back to east Wilson and boost housing in low income areas. I will also seek investors who can help revitalize our struggling neighborhoods.”

What are youR toP priorities and why?

Farmer-Butterfield: “Education for better teacher salaries and other school personnel; always putting our students foremost; increase in cost-of-living adjustments; negotiating a compromise Medicaid expansion bill between the bill I authored and the bill written by Republicans in the 2019 session, thus meeting the health care needs of those without insurance and create health care jobs and support veterans and their families in need of it, and keep our tax dollars in N.C. versus sending them to 37 states who have passed Medicaid expansion; and continue to get jobs and promote economic development as a strong priority as in past years.”

McNeil: “I want to make sure our area schools have the proper resources and programs to effectively serve all students. I will not only work to bring jobs to Wilson but will seek investors who can help revitalize some of our struggling neighborhoods. I will advocate for funding and resources to aid in the economic plight of our local farmers. I believe comprehensive rehabilitation opportunities, greater inmate access to legal counsel and establishing support programs for families of incarcerated individuals are ideas that should be explored within our prison system.” In regards to the Second Amendment, “I support our constitutional right to bear arms as well as background checks.”

What do you think it will take to get bipartisan support in order to pass a state budget?

Farmer-Butterfield: “Getting people in leadership in the majority in the legislature in our state that understand the art of compromise and have a track record of working on both sides of the aisle for success,” is what’s needed. “If a compromise Medicaid expansion bill can be passed, then a comprehensive budget can be passed based on past issues. At present, the budget in place is being continued from last fiscal year (2018-19) and pieces of the budget are being introduced in a bill and passed in critical areas. I am the third-highest ranking member of the Democratic caucus and could become speaker, speaker pro-tem or chair of appropriations if re-elected.”

McNeil: “It would take compromise on both sides for the General Assembly to come up with a bipartisan budget. We are living in a very divisive time; however, it’s important that we put our differences aside and put the needs of the people first. Agreeing on a state budget is critical to providing citizens with much-needed resources such as aid to cities and towns and funding the Medicare savings program. I will be that representative who will work across party lines to help get bills passed.”

Do you think Medicaid expansion should be a priority for North Carolina?

Farmer-Butterfield: “Medicaid should be a priority in our state. In addition to reasons above, the fact that people without health insurance are going to emergency rooms after they are seriously ill and this has to be written off by hospitals and our cost goes up is important. Expansion will enable them to go to the doctor on a regular basis before there is a crisis and critical need. Thus, intervention and prevention would be possible. The opioid epidemic would be reduced if that individual on Medicaid could get treatment /therapy. Rural hospitals would be able to stay open and maintain a high job market.”

McNeil: “I agree with the hundreds of thousands of citizens in North Carolina who believe that Medicaid expansion is vital. Over the last five years, the N.C. General Assembly has rejected federal help to expand Medicaid and has chosen politics over the health and well-being of North Carolinians. If the General Assembly expanded Medicaid, more than half of North Carolinians would be eligible for the coverage they need to treat chronic conditions and live healthy, productive lives. The Democrats and Republicans in Virginia came together to pass Medicaid expansion last year, and 33 other states have followed. N.C. needs to expand Medicaid to ensure that everyone has access to affordable health care.”

What steps should the legislature take to increase support for teachers and raise salaries?

Farmer-Butterfield: “Teacher raises should be a priority for the entire legislature due to the impact it has on our students. Legislators need to value teachers and be informed on the cost of having teachers take jobs in other states or two jobs to make ends meet. Legislators need to compare N.C. teachers’ salaries to the national average and look at inflation and increase salaries. The governor posed 8.5% raises in his budget and legislative leaders approximately 3.8%. A compromise between these two percentages should be accomplished. Teachers need to meet with their respective legislators and educate them.”

McNeil: “I would take a look at the budget for FY 2019-20 and FY 2020-21 and raise teacher pay an average of 9.1% over two years with no teacher receiving less than a 3% raise in either year. Within four years, this would bring North Carolina in line to become one of the best states for teachers in the Southeast. I would also reward veteran teachers and instructional support personnel by providing salary increases for each year of service up to 30 years.”