‘Long-Term Vision’ McCrory Vows New Approach as Governor
If he’s elected governor of North Carolina, Republican candidate Pat McCrory promises a “long-term vision” for the state.
Interviewed Thursday in Pinehurst, where he spoke to the “Prosperity Project” conference sponsored by the Moore County Chamber of Commerce, Charlotte resident McCrory also said he supports Amendment One against gay marriage.
He described Democratic candidate Bob Etheridge’s demand that he release his tax records as “pure political gamesmanship.”
McCrory spoke with Pilot Staff Writer Ted Natt. Here is an edited transcript of their recorded conversation:
Q: If the Republican primary were held today, who would you vote for for president?
A: Ha. I’ve stayed out of that race, and I still plan to stay out of that race. However, I do wish the race would end soon and we’d start working together as one team, and I think that would be much more beneficial to the long term of the party. And I hope it’s decided and finalized within a very short period of time.
Q: So what do you think of the general tone of the presidential campaign to this point?
A: I think it’s far too destructive and we need more positive dialogue, but a lot of that destruction is also taught, even created, by people asking the questions, and wanting conflict and wanting disagreement among people who basically agree on 90 percent of the issues.
I wish the national debates were concentrating more on policy instead of style, and I think both the candidates and the media are to blame for making it more about style, more like “American Idol” contests than actually what they’re saying, and I think that’s happening in all levels of politics.
Q: As far as the gubernatorial race goes, what is your program or platform to improve North Carolina’s economy?
A: Well, my goal first is to fix what I consider to be a broken economy and a broken government, and it’s a combination of both. My general concept is to unleash the resources that we have in North Carolina and make them be used more efficiently.
Regarding the economy, I’m looking at three or four major areas. The first area is that I want to get into gas exploration and bring new revenue to the state, new jobs to the state and also participate in what I think is an energy crisis in the United States.
And I think with regard to gas exploration, both inland and offshore, we’ve waited far too long and we need to begin that process of coming up with sound regulations so when the gas companies are ready, we’re ready, too. But right now we’ve been sitting on the sidelines for far too long.
Q: So you’re pro-fracking?
A: I’m definitely pro-exploration inside, under the land, especially in three or four of the counties in North Carolina where the unemployment rate is unacceptable.
Q: What about incentives? What role do you see them playing in your economic development goals?
A: My goal is to develop more of a long-term economic sustainable plan for not only new businesses, but for existing businesses. And right now, I don’t know of an economic development plan for the state of North Carolina for both new and existing businesses. It’s very reactionary.
The line keeps changing regarding what incentives we give and how we give them and I think one of the first things I’ll do is develop a consistent policy for both new businesses and existing businesses. And right now, the fact of the matter is, our corporate tax rate and our income tax rate is not competitive, not only with the nation but even with our next-door neighbors in South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.
Right now, we have no policy. We have no sustainable plan. It’s pretty sad. I met with the governor of South Carolina just two weeks ago, who’s supporting my campaign, but the fact of the matter is, they’re beating us with a longer term plan and a strategy toward manufacturing and other industries.
Q: Did you approve of last month’s post-midnight session in which the General Assembly took away the right of NCAE members to have their dues deducted from their state paychecks — or the procedures used to achieve that conclusion?
A: I agree with the bill, although I would have expanded the bill to a lot of organizations that are getting dues taken out of the paychecks. I don’t think the state ought to be in the business of taking any automatic dues out of paychecks for organizations, especially political organizations.
I did not agree with it being done past midnight, but there were a lot of issues related with that, that were directly related to the governor’s office, and it was Gov. Perdue that invented that kind of procedure, but that doesn’t make it better. We implemented it, also.
Q: If you take office a year or so from now, what do you think will be the biggest challenge facing state government?
A: I think, well, two challenges. The economy and jobs and finding the necessary revenue to implement the basic functions necessary for government, especially as it relates to the education and infrastructure.
And the second major issue is going to be health care. Our state is not prepared for the Supreme Court case coming up in June, regardless of the decision. Our state is sitting on the sidelines and not prepared for either the nonimplementation of Obamacare, which I hope happens, or the implementation of Obamacare. No one is talking about that incredibly complex and difficult issue.
The second area that I think is going to be extremely important is that I think we’ve got to break through the culture in state government that’s got to recognize that they have to do more with less, just like the private sector has had to do with the past four years. And I want to implement a culture in which we implement change, recognizing that you have to do more with less, you have to introduce more technology, and you have to treat our constituents as customers, not the other way around.
Q: Do you favor or oppose Amendment One [against same-sex marriage]?
A: I’m going to be supporting it. I’m voting in favor of it.
Q: Does a governor elected from Charlotte understand the problems of smaller towns like ours?
A: I grew up in a smaller town, up in Jamestown, N.C., so that’s a very strong part of my biography, and I cherish both that opportunity of living in a small town and yet also help leading a big city, and I think both those experiences will be a great attribute to the governor’s office.
We have to learn to feed off each other. Small towns and big cities have to work as a team. We’re all in the same state, and frankly I hope they build an infrastructure plan, develop a 25-year infrastructure plan which will connect the metropolitan areas with the rural areas of the state and with the ports, through roads, rails, and airports. Right now we do not have such a plan.
Q: What was your reaction when you learned that Gov. Perdue was not going to seek re-election?
A: From a personal standpoint, I would have like to run against her, but we were anticipating that scenario possibly occurring, and that’s a scenario that’s out of my control. So we were going to concentrate on our message, our strategy and our vision for the state, regardless of who we run against.
Q: Bob Etheridge recently released his tax records and urged you and other candidates to do the same. I believe that you have refused. Can you tell us why?
A: Pure political gamemanship. I released all my financial records when I filed for government, which clearly state where I may have any potential conflicts. I think it’s just pure political gamesmanship by Mr. Etheridge, which is kind of ridiculous since he’s been in government all his life and his salaries were public anyway.
I clearly stated on the record that I own a 2,600-square-foot house. My wife and I own two cars. Both of them are 10 years old. I have a 401(k) and no pension, and I wish I had more than that.
Q: Have you had any consulting or lobbying clients whose nature might create conflicts of interest for you?
A: Absolutely not. In fact, I would be breaking the law if I had any lobbying conflicts — which is kind of interesting that they’re accusing me of that. That’s a pretty serious accusation. It’s totally untrue.
Q: Do you approve of the recent college tuition increases in the UNC system?
A: I haven’t got the information on which they based that. But I do say this, that the university system is going to have to decrease the inflation rate that they’ve had for the past 10 years.
The rate of their cost is increasing at a much greater rate than inflation, and that’s not fair to the student and that’s not fair to the taxpayers. So we’re going to have to clearly look at how we educate our children in a better and a more effective way, and an effective way that works within the budget of North Carolina.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add that you think is really pertinent to this gubernatorial races?
A: I think that more than anything, people are looking for leadership and problem-solving and looking for a long-term sustainable plan so that the next generation has the same great quality of life that so many of us have had in this great state.
There is no other state like North Carolina and there’s no excuse that we have an unemployment rate that’s higher than the national average and that we have taxes higher than the national average, and I just think we can do so much better using the talent, using our education system, using the energy underneath our land, using the land itself in agriculture, which is another area of our economy which I think has been quite ignored.
I’ll mention one other thing, and that is education. I take affront when people who criticize the status quo of the education system are labeled as against education. Just the opposite. I have a passion for education. I attained my North Carolina teaching certificate back in 1978. My goal has always been to be a teacher, but I’m not satisfied with the status quo of education, and by just asking for more money to pour into a system that has an unacceptable dropout rate, that has too many people graduating that don’t have basic literacy, that has a university system where we have to have classes on remedial English, is not a system that is successful.
I also firmly believe that we need to break out of the concept of thinking that every child, in order to be successful has to have a four-year college degree. I think that there are two equal paths to success. One is a great path to success, a four-year education, which I was fortunate to have, but I will be pushing very hard to see that every high school in North Carolina has a four-year college curriculum for graduation from high school and a curriculum for the trades and vocational training.
Q: If the Republicans maintain control in both the House and the Senate, how do you envision working with those bodies?
A: I anticipate that first of all, whoever has the majority in the House and Senate and the executive branch should not become arrogant with that majority, like what has occurred during the last 10 years in Raleigh with the other party. It’s inexcusable.
My goal as governor is to formulate a long-term vision for our state, to create jobs, get current companies to grow and to have an education system that’s second to none, but can’t be the status quo of what we’ve been doing for the last 20 years. We’ve got to prepare for the next 20 years.
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