10/15/06 — Governor addresses NAACP delegates

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Governor addresses NAACP delegates

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 15, 2006 2:00 AM

Raising the hope of going beyond the state's recent increase of the minimum wage and creating a living wage for North Carolina residents, Gov. Mike Easley spoke before an enthusiastic crowd at the 63rd convention of the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP in Goldsboro Friday.

Thanking state Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, for her work in getting the minimum wage legislation passed, Easley told the group his efforts would not end there.

"The NAACP helped make a difference in the lives of hundreds of people in North Carolina this year. Raising the minimum wage helps all of our people make the needed transition to this new economy. The increase helps low-income workers cope with the rising cost of transportation, health care and other basic needs and build better lives," Easley said. "It's the first step toward livable wages. Now we just need to get a living wage in this state and in this country."

It's a vision he said he believes will become a reality.

"If Washington continues to lollygag I believe the states will be willing to act," he said.

But, Easley continued, the government's responsibilities go further than just the economy and job creation, and he asked for the NAACP's continued support in the areas of education reform and health care initiatives.

All are platforms Easley has concentrated on since his first election in 2000, and all are areas he feels are vital for the state's future.

"Whatsoever we do to the least of our people, so you do unto me," Easley said. "That is the way we'll be measured.

"In North Carolina we need to help the weak get strong and the strong grow great. This is not about what I can do for you or what you can do for me, but what we can do together. That's what it's all about."

In the areas of education, Easley touted his More at Four initiative -- preschool for at-risk 4-year olds, his Learn and Earn high schools -- programs allowing high school students to stay five years and earn a high school diploma and an associates degree or two years of college credit and his support for the community college and university systems.

"From the high chair to the rocking chair," he said. "We need to give everybody the opportunity to reach their full potential.

"And I know you want to do it for the moral reasons, but it's more than a moral imperative. It's an economic imperative and it's a national security imperative."

But, he continued, he also needs the NAACP's help in tackling health care, specifically in promoting a new program to help low-income senior citizens get their prescription drugs.

Easley explained that North Carolina Rx would the pay the premiums for seniors with incomes up to 175 percent of the poverty level -- $17,150 for an individual ($20,000 in assets), $23,100 for married couples ($30,000 in assets).

The program also would provide resources to seniors working through the Medicare Part D prescription program, as well as a medication therapy management program to help seniors ensure they are taking the correct medications.

"I want to enlist everyone's assistance in getting the word out about this new program," he said. "If you have an elderly parent, neighbor or friend who may qualify please make sure they call our toll-free number (1-888-488-NCRX) or visit the Web site (www.ncrx.gov) for information."