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Dalton Unveils NC Government Reform Package

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton unveiled government and campaign reform recommendations on Wednesday that the Democratic gubernatorial nominee said would improve trust in elected officials and promote transparency in their actions.

Dalton said if elected in November he would require board and commission appointees to disclose campaign donations and improve public access to economic disclosure statements of candidates and elected officials. He also wants to expand disclosures of independent expenditure transactions in campaigns and create tougher penalties for some corruption-related crimes.

Several legislators and a former governor have been caught up in legal troubles and in some cases criminal convictions over the past 10 years. The Legislature approved tougher ethics and lobbying laws in 2006, but Dalton told reporters he’s concerned the State Ethics Commission created that year isn’t working as well as it could. He wants to give the commission more resources.

“We cannot tolerate a breach of confidence in our government, and those who violate the public trust I think do need to be punished,” Dalton said, adding the state “must put in place policies that will prevent that type of activity and which will restore the people’s confidence in government.”

The ex-state senator from Rutherford County also backed other ideas that have been floating around the Legislature for years. He said he would sign a bill that would limit the House speaker and Senate leader to serving eight consecutive years in the chamber’s top jobs and would work to create an independent commission to perform the once-a-decade redistricting. The time period that ex-lawmakers must wait until they can become registered state lobbyists also should be lengthened from a minimum of six months to one year, Dalton said.

Republican gubernatorial rival Pat McCrory will release his own government reform plan after the national political conventions, according to McCrory’s campaign, which proceeded to call Dalton’s campaign hypocritical for releasing a plan to fix problems it argues flourished under Dalton’s watch.

McCrory press secretary Ricky Diaz accused Dalton of presiding over closed-door budget talks while a Senate budget-writer and participating in “the good-old boy and good-old girl system of our broken state government that has produced scandal after scandal while Dalton sat idly by and said and did nothing.”

Dalton voted for the 2006 lobbying and ethics reforms while in the Senate. When asked why as a senator Dalton didn’t call for term limits while Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, led the chamber for what became 18 years, Dalton said the state was fortunate that Basnight was a “benevolent leader doing great things.”

Going forward, Dalton said, “we’ve got to hold our leaders accountable” and the eight-year maximum is a way to do it.

Dalton and fellow Democrats, meanwhile, have criticized McCrory for failing to disclose more details about his work history since his first run for governor in 2008. Dalton also has released two years of federal and state income tax returns. McCrory said he’s complied with financial disclosures as required by law.

Dalton said he would be open to ideas about requiring candidates to release more financial details but didn’t add tax returns to his reform package. Government reform isn’t something most voters in November are clamoring to talk about compared to the economy and education, but it’s important nonetheless, Dalton said.

“This is not a political move,” he said. “This is something that I think needs to be done to restore that confidence in government.”

Dalton also said if elected he would:

— require Cabinet secretaries and senior advisers to sign performance contracts that set goals and hold them accountable for meeting them.

— require Cabinet secretaries to hold public meetings to receive feedback on improving government services before submitting a proposed budget to him. Dalton also said he would hold a public hearing with legislators when releasing his spending plan.

— place information online about state aircraft use to discourage misuse by state officials.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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