Words and Deeds Don't Match Up
Our new governor, Pat McCrory, came across reasonably well from a delivery standpoint in his Monday State of the State message.
In the matter of content, though, we fear the governor's message raised more questions than it answered, and more of them have come up since he spoke. Though many of the broad goals sounded good, the details on how they can be accomplished too often were sorely lacking. And there were some glaring contradictions.
For example, the governor underlined his support for public education by announcing that he wanted to convene the Education Cabinet, which is made up of educators from various levels in the public schools and the university system. The only problem is that the General Assembly, as part of its rather merciless cutting of state programs, has already eliminated the funding for the coordinator of said Education Cabinet. Oops!
Broad Promises, Sketchy Details
There was also an irony in the governor's singling out of Mike and Rebecca Allred, whom he said had beaten drug addictions and turned their lives around and now run a Durham rescue mission.
To his credit, McCrory introduced the Allreds in connection with urging the re-establishing of drug courts to help offenders find assistance rather than having to go to prison. Problem: Some of those drug courts, which can save the state lots of money by lowering the number of people behind bars, had to shut down after the Republicans in the legislature cut off much of their funding in 2011.
In general, it must be said that the governor - and he is certainly not the first politician to do this - provided a great deal more in the way of broad promises and goals than he did in details about how they could help to accomplish them under the legislature's current severe budget restrictions and its aversion to anything resembling revenue increase.
Rash and Costly Decisions
McCrory said early in his address that "too many people are hurting" in North Carolina. Regrettably, though, he spoke in praise of (and signed into law the very next day) recent legislative action that promises to put more hurt on more people than anything in recent memory. This new law makes deep and poorly thought-out cuts in the unemployment benefits available to North Carolinians and in the amount of time that they can receive them.
It is true that the state needs to do something to begin paying back the $2.5 billion it owes the federal government for money borrowed to pay these jobless benefits. But the unmistakable priority here is to shift the burden of suffering to everyday people while saving businesses from having to pay the unemployment tax surcharge that would've helped carry their share of the payback.
By rushing to put the bill into effect July 1 instead of waiting for six months, the state will also forfeit federal payments worth $780 million. Draining so much money out of the North Carolina economy right now will have terrible direct and indirect effects on everyone in the state. McCrory also supported the legislature's unwise decision to reject a Medicaid expansion under which North Carolina would get about $2 billion a year in federal money.
We believe McCrory is serious about wanting to help North Carolina "fulfill and exceed its potential." But he is embracing some odd ways to do it.
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