The 2012 election season is now officially under way.

On November 6 many of us will head to the polls to vote in the general election. We’ll soon be hearing from these candidates. It won’t be long before political candidates being introducing themselves to us again, with forums, debates, interviews, mailers, meet-and-greets, television and radio ads, tweets, and robocalls. They’ll be telling us plenty about themselves and, no doubt, the shortcomings of their opponents.

But what questions should we be asking these political candidates?

• Have you read the US and North Carolina Constitution?
It is the rulebook for how government is supposed to work. Without understanding the limitations set forth in our constitution, it’s impossible to understand what government should do, not necessarily what it can do. Read it, study it, and keep it handy.

• What is the role of government?
Is it to provide core services that we as individuals cannot provide alone?
Those core functions include providing roads, infrastructure, and education, ensuring public safety, and taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves. Trying to provide everything for everyone, or taking wealth from one person and giving it to another, are not the government’s business.

• How do you create jobs?
Is it government’s job to create jobs? Or is it government’s job to get out of the way and let individuals keep more of their money so they can start and grow businesses and hire workers, fuel the economy, and create jobs?

• What is the right size of government?
We’ve heard complaints from liberals that recent budget cuts would put tens of thousands of government employees out of work. Turns out that those numbers were a gross exaggeration, but the complaints show the question should be how many state workers are needed to get the job done, not how big should government grow.

• How much education spending is enough?
We spend 56 percent of the NC state budget on education, on average more than $9,300 per student in K-12. One-third of those students do not graduate high school in four years. We subsidize each in-state student in our university system by an average of $10,000 annually, but only 36 percent graduate in four years, and only 59 percent in six years. Measuring performance instead of how much we spend would get us to rethink education delivery.

• Would you support a taxpayer protection act that would limit the growth of government to the increase in population with an adjustment for inflation?
General Fund growth has outpaced population growth for decades. An amendment to limit spending would instill fiscal discipline to restrain unsustainable growth of government.

• Should transportation dollars be used for buses and rail or to build and repair roads and bridges?
Should the distribution of transportation money be determined by congestion needs, or should it be distributed equally across the state?

• How long do you plan to serve?
Recent trends and criminal convictions suggest the longer someone is in power, the greater the desire to hold on to that power. Would you agree to term limits? Would you support tightly written rules for redistricting to prevent gerrymandering and to promote competitive elections in congressional and state legislative races?

Why would we want competitive elections? It serves us well to have lots of candidates from whom to choose, to have a real voice in who will lead and what kind of government we will have, instead of having elections with a  predetermined outcome.