Pat McCrory is on a mission to create jobs by making North Carolina more competitive and more attractive to new industry. Thanks to his Partnership for Prosperity program, which streamlines the industry recruitment process, he’s already made substantial progress in that regard. But he’s also made some enemies who haven’t appreciated having their toes stepped on along the way.
“It reminds me of my first two years as mayor of Charlotte where the status quo punished me, hit me, but I kept going because we had to,” he said. “We have no choice. People are hurting right now, and there’s no reason for North Carolina to have such a high unemployment rate.”
Last week, Gov. McCrory took time out from his incredibly busy schedule to tape an exclusive, half hour interview for “Triad Today.” The special program will air this Saturday at 7:30 a.m. on WXLV abc45, and again on Sunday at 11 a.m. on WMYV MY48.
This was McCrory’s fourth visit to “Triad Today,” but his first since taking office in January. He is arguably our most traveled governor in recent memory, and a breath of fresh air from the previous two administrations which were scandal-ridden, and Triangle-centric.
“I get out of Raleigh at least two to three days a week, be cause you get caught up in the bubble of seeing the same hundred people,” he said. “I don’t care what profession you’re in, if you sit in your office and don’t get out on the floor and see people, you’re going to lose perspective on what’s happening, and I enjoy visiting all parts of North Carolina.”
But while McCrory is greeted with cheers at most every stop, his legislative initiatives have met with opposition and criticism from the news media, myself included, who have accused the governor of partisan politics in setting public policy.
For example, I asked why he didn’t allow the NC Department of Health and Human Services to draw from his Rainy Day Fund back when the government shutdown first began, instead of announcing an end to Work First benefit checks, which help to feed some 70,000 children.
“Actually some of the news reporting was incorrect,” he said. “It was future things that we weren’t going to do. But we literally had the money up until the end of October, so some of it was misreported by some of the critics. What we did was say we’re not going to sign up any NEW people after the end of October, and the reason is we didn’t have any money budgeted. If I steal from the Rainy Day Fund for that, then what happens if I have a Medicaid shortfall like we had last time? So we’re having to make some tough decisions, but I would have re-visited that decision at the end of the month.”
I also criticized the governor for ending extended unemployment benefits to 170,000 people. But, as it turns out, I didn’t have all the facts. McCrory set me straight.
“These were people who had been on unemployment for 90 weeks, and what the Obama administration offered me was, ‘We will extend you unemployment,’” he said. “But that is not his money, that’s a loan. We already owed the federal government $2.4 billion from the previous loan accepted by the Perdue administration, who didn’t know how they were going to pay that back, so they increased taxes on businesses to pay the interest on that loan, and businesses were actually having to lay people off to pay the interest on the loan. So when the president offers an extension of unemployment, you and others say, ‘Why aren’t you taking it?’ Because it’s a loan which requires repayment. Nev-ertheless we offered President Obama a compromise. We have the ninth highest unemployment compensation in the United States. Let us lower our unemployment compensation equal to what Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia are paying. Let us lower it, and we’ll take the extension so our debt won’t continue. And the White House said, ‘No, we’re not going to let you lower it.’ That basically made the decision for me, because our debt would have ballooned to $3 billion.”
Then there was McCrory’s decision not to accept three years of “free” Medicaid extensions from Washington. “That doesn’t include the administrative cost,” he said. “I would have had to hire a thousand more people, and set up a whole new bureaucracy. Our Medicaid system is broken, and forecasting is off by $535 million. That’s where the teacher pay raises went. So I need to fix the current system before even considering expanding the future program.”
These are just a few of the issues Mc- Crory addressed on this week’s “Triad Today,” and I’m glad he did. “Triad Today” gave the governor an unedited, unfiltered forum for explaining his vision and accomplishments, and that’s something he needs to do more of going forward. In the meantime, he is resolute in his approach.
“We inherited a lot of broken things, and frankly I’m not going to run away from them, whether I get some black eyes as a result,” he said. “I could have hid a few more problems under the rug and pretended they didn’t exist, and probably had a higher approval rating, but I didn’t come here to live in a mansion. I came here to do something.”