Chris Fitzsimon Fitzsimon File
April 14, 2014
Gov. Pat McCrory seems to think that every time people in Raleigh have questions about one of his proposals, it is because he is courageously “stepping on toes” of people in entrenched institutions who refuse to consider doing things differently.
McCrory used the line in a recent speech in Charlotte — where he seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time in recent weeks — talking about the lukewarm reception for his proposal to turn over the state’s economic development efforts to a private nonprofit corporation.
Similar schemes in other states have caused all sorts of problems, including unaccountable spending, exorbitant salaries for the private staff and conflict of interest issues for the folks negotiating huge inventive deals.
And not just Democrats are raising questions about the plan. Some Republican members of the General Assembly have some concerns about the proposal too.
It is not the first time a major initiative from McCrory has run into problems. It was opposition from the medical community and key Republican legislators that forced McCrory to abandon his unwise plan to privatize the state’s Medicaid program by turning it over to out of state for-profit managed care companies.
And now there’s some resistance to his plan to privatize Commerce. Maybe McCrory’s problem isn’t that he is stepping on toes, but that he is coming up with bad ideas that even members of his own political party can’t support.
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McCrory also told the audience in Charlotte that almost everything was broken when he took office, reciting the now familiar and misleading litany, Medicaid, unemployment, the tax code, the budget situation, all of which apparently threatened the state’s solvency.
It was a reprise of McCrory’s “everything is broken” mantra he used during his campaign in 2012. He’s still using it in a sense, referring back to the problems whenever his administration is criticized for its performance in everything from delivering food stamps to monitoring the safety of coal ash ponds.
The new slogan seems to be “it’s not our fault, everything was broken when we took over,” even though he has now been in charge for 15 months.
Interesting then that McCrory issued a news release last week touting the announcement that the state had maintained its AAA bond rating from the major credit agencies.
McCrory said the announcement was great news and that “our attention to efficient spending practices, cash flow and low debt continue to prove that the state is financially stable. Our prudent and effective financial practices continue to provide a strong signal to companies thinking of relocating to North Carolina or those thinking of expanding.”
It does raise a question though. How could everything have been broken before McCrory took over if the state had the same AAA bond rating then? If “prudent and effective financial practices” maintained the high rating this year, then they must have been in effect in previous years too.
Maybe everything wasn’t broken when McCrory took over after all.
There is something missing from most of the discussions about the General Assembly coming up with the money to give teachers a raise next year. Despite revenue problems caused by last year’s regressive tax shift, most Raleigh observers seem convinced that lawmakers will at least be able to fund McCrory’s plan to give starting teachers a raise by increasing the base pay from $30,800 a year to $35,000.
That will cost $176 million over the next two years. That does nothing for veteran teachers, though there are reports that McCrory will also propose a small across the board increase for all teachers in the budget recommendations he will send to the General Assembly before the session begins in May.
Most media accounts of the teacher pay debate note that lawmakers left $360 million unspent when they passed the budget last year and planned all along to use that money to pay for salary increases.
But that would violate one of the cardinal rules of budget writing, that you should not use one-time money for ongoing expenses like salaries or you will create a big hole in the next year’s budget since there is no guarantee that the money be there again.
Republican lawmakers should be well aware of the argument. They made it time and time again when they were in the minority and thought that budgets by Democrats were spending one time money on recurring expenses.
Apparently budget integrity is only important when someone else is putting the budget together.
There’s a more sound way to give teachers the raise they deserve and restore some of the damaging cuts to public schools made in the last year — rethink the unwise tax reductions passed last session that gave millionaires and out of state corporations big tax cuts.
Chris Fitzsimon is executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.