Commentary

He’s back? A little friendly career advice for Pat McCrory

Dear Pat,

Hey there, stranger! It’s been a little minute since we last caught up. I see you’re out and about again, once more to the hustings and all that. It hurts me that no one has told you what you so clearly need to hear. I say this to you in a completely non-partisan way: You are a bad politician. You’re not good at seeing how to get what you want and/or need, or in the event that’s not possible, making sure that what you don’t want doesn’t happen, or failing even that modest goal – happens to everyone, no need to pretend otherwise –  making sure that you come out with as much credit as possible. That’s politics, and you are really, really bad at it.

The GOP leadership of the NCGA didn’t consult you or respect you; they didn’t even bother to pretend they did. Remember when you and your lovely wife tried to get the puppy mill bill passed, and one senator said, “Angels in heaven cannot make that bill pass” at the same meeting where he bragged that it would succeed if it had his name on it? That really sucked. And still you carried water for them! Most notably on HB2, which you could easily have kept at arm’s length. Hoooo, boy, that mess spattered! It was unpopular and unnecessary and a PR disaster from the start. You were the only one who had to win statewide and you were its biggest defender! For no reason! Seriously, how could you not see it?

Honestly, bud, the playgrounds of North Carolina are full of better politicians than you. Interesting point, most of them are girls. Negotiating competing interests to the point of mutual benefit or destruction is what girls do all day long. We call it “catfighting” instead of politics to deprive it of meaning so that those girls won’t grow up seeing that they have all the skills needed to run the whole world. I bet you never thought of it that way, right? Because you =/= a politician! Witness the way you keep setting up my matriarchy arguments. (Or am I setting YOU up? You don’t know!)

Why is no one on your side of the aisle willing to say this to you? They’re not your friends or even your allies if they won’t save you from yourself. Again, I am performing this public service in a completely non-partisan spirit. It’s not because I disagreed with the things you wanted to achieve, although obviously I did. I’m telling you in the hope that you’ll spare this state the embarrassing spectacle of this pity tour. Duke and Harvard won’t hire you because you’re a lesson, not a teacher. You can pretend to yourself all day long that Big Left is keeping you away from them, but, really, it’s because they’re paying good money for an education and actual experts will provide it. Honey, the Trump transition team, a veritable hotbed of incompetents, could see that you weren’t no good at the politics! Take a hint, stop running for office.

To recap, this is a classic good news, bad news situation. On the plus side, you’re an emperor (at last, a promotion!). Sadly, you’re naked, babe, and everyone can see it but no one will say it. Leave politics to the girls who are good at it. Be an elder statesman, get the puppy mill bill passed, use your stature for something positive. It’s time.

Ciao,

Andrea

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend

In case you missed it, the Charlotte Observer ran a concise, excellent and very important editorial over the weekend on a subject of terrible importance that has not gotten much attention during this year’s state policy battles. It concerns extremely dangerous legislation at the General Assembly that would formally call for a national constitutional convention. Here’s the Observer:

“Sometimes proposals that were long forgotten and thought dead reemerge like the monster in a horror flick.

One that fits that description is Senate Bill 36. It is a resolution in which North Carolina applies to Congress for a constitutional convention of the states. Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides that a constitutional convention shall be held when two-thirds of the states (34) call for one on the same topic.

The Senate passed the resolution back in April (with five Republicans joining all Democrats in opposition). The bill has been parked in the House Rules Committee ever since, and it needs to stay there in this closing week of the session.

The convention would be ‘limited to proposing amendments to the United States Constitution that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and limit the terms of office for its officials and for members of Congress.’

In other words, the convention would be limited to an enormous Pandora’s Box of mischief.

America hasn’t held a constitutional convention since 1787. Given the quality of the statesmen we have today compared with then, and given the dangerous polarization that marks the United States today, calling one now could spiral into unknown territory and is an exceedingly bad idea.”

Commentary, News

The Week’s Top Five on NC Policy Watch

1. Don’t be misled by the headlines or the spin; the final budget is far worse than it looks

Most of the initial headlines about the final budget agreement announced Monday afternoon by legislative leaders were ones they could have written themselves, touting raises for teachers and state employees, a cost of living increase for state retirees and hundreds of millions of dollars more in funding for education.

Even many Raleigh insiders who should know better were praising the overall agreement for the few bright spots in it, like the provision ending the policy of automatically trying 16 and 17-year olds who commit crimes as adults.

Some were breathing a sigh of relief that absurd cuts were reduced, like the proposed $4 million reduction to the UNC School of Law in the Senate budget, which ended up as a $500,000 cut in the final agreement. [Read more…]

*** Bonus videos:

2. Public school advocates wary of “vouchers on steroids” in GOP-authored budget

The $23 billion budget deal speeding through the N.C. General Assembly this week includes a platoon of significant public school initiatives, including much-touted teacher raises, a swift ballooning of the state’s funding for a private school voucher program and dramatic cut-backs for North Carolina’s central K-12 bureaucracy.

But one little-noted provision of this year’s GOP-authored spending package that seems to be generating the most concern from public school advocates is the launch of personal education savings accounts (PESAs). The so-called “vouchers on steroids” have generated great controversy in other Republican-controlled states, but their inclusion in the North Carolina legislature’s budget deal comes with far less public scrutiny.

“There has never been any public discussion of this in the state with the General Assembly. It’s never even been presented in a committee,” says Leanne Winner, director of governmental relations for the N.C. School Boards Association, which lobbies for local boards of education at the General Assembly. [Read more]

*** Bonus read: Advocates warn budget’s K-12 grading reforms could harm schools, communities


3. The General Assembly’s war on the poor hits another new low
Unexplained, backroom maneuver would rob already underfunded anti-poverty program

There’s no denying that conservative ideology plays a big and important role in driving the North Carolina public policy debate these days. In battle after battle, Republican lawmakers have justified their positions and decisions – from cutting taxes on the wealthy and profitable corporations to reducing environmental protection efforts to privatizing public education to an array of other actions – with the claim that they were vindicating the overarching philosophical cause of downsizing government and “unleashing the private sector.”

Progressives almost always disagree with these justifications – often vehemently and with good reason – but, in most instances, one must concede a certain consistency, however twisted, to the conservative argument. Experience confirms that slashing taxes on the rich won’t actually stimulate economic growth, but one can at least see where the other side is coming from. [Read more...]

4. House Bill 374 and its restrictions on the citizens’ right to contest environmental permits, advances in Senate

Even before he dropped the gavel on the Senate Finance Committee meeting, Sen. Jerry Tillman, a notoriously cantankerous Republican from Randolph County, seemed to be in a particularly bad mood.

He mumbled about being angry. He barked at audience to take their seats, lest he start selling tickets. And with eight bills to plow through — he promised it would take no longer than 30 minutes — Tillman sped through the meeting as if he were herding cattle through a sale barn.

At that auctioneer’s pace, then, there was little discussion of the House Bill 374, legislation with far-reaching implications.  [Read more…]

***Bonus read: Former Wilmington mayor: “We’re here to express our outrage” over GenX contamination in drinking water, Cape Fear

5. U.S. Supreme Court agrees to take on partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin case that could set standards across country

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it would hear a partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin that has the potential to affect about one-third of the maps drawn for Congress and state legislatures across the country.

It’s a case North Carolinians are keeping a close eye on, since a similar court battle is brewing here.

Gill v. Whitford is an appeal of a lower court’s order for the Wisconsin Legislature to redraw the state assembly map that the court struck down as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander by November 1. [Read more...]

*** Bonus read: Campaign finance investigation of Senate Elections Committee chair continues

Commentary

Final budget plan ignores past promises and irresponsibly underfunds teacher salary plan

North Carolina’s General Assembly leadership likes to tout its record of “fiscal responsibility.” A closer look at the 2017 budget’s teacher pay plan, however, shows that the salary plans are dangerously underfunded. Under-funding a $5.3 billion line-item is the opposite of fiscal responsibility.

The General Assembly has budgeted $101.7 million to implement its 2017-18 salary schedule. It is unclear how this number was derived. Had the General Assembly used the same methodology as used in the previous three budgets, it should have budgeted at least $115.4 million to implement the first-year teacher salary schedule. The problem is repeated in the budget’s second year. The General Assembly budgets just $372.6 million to implement its 2018-19 salary schedule, but the cost is likely to be closer to $387.0 million.

If anything, lawmakers should consider being more conservative in how they estimate teacher pay plans. Preliminary data from the December pay period indicates that the General Assembly under-budgeted teacher salaries by about $8 million in FY 16-17. If that holds true, this would mark the first time the General Assembly has underfunded the teacher allotment in over twenty years.

It is unclear whether the General Assembly is also under-funding its pay plan for principals and assistant principals. Neither the General Assembly’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division, nor the Department of Public Instruction, have released the data necessary to assess the fiscal soundness of these plans.

If the General Assembly’s fiscal irresponsibility creates a hole in the budget, the Governor’s budget office will have to implement mid-year budget cuts in other areas to ensure that teachers continue to receive their promised salaries. Should that come to pass, let’s be clear that the blame will lay with the General Assembly’s reckless budgeting practices, and not with the Governor acting to fix the General Assembly’s self-inflicted mess.

It’s important to remember that the General Assembly’s teacher pay plan represents a broken promise to North Carolina’s teachers. In the spring of 2016, Senator Phil Berger unveiled a plan to bring average teacher pay to $54,224 in the 17-18 school year. This budget fails to meet Senator Berger’s promise. Under the 2017 budget plan, average teacher pay will likely fall a little under $50,900 in the 17-18 school year. Read more

Commentary

Editorial: GOP budget proposal is “monument to bad management”

This morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com (“New NC budget – poor management, failed responsibilities, missed opportunities”) offers a scathing and sadly accurate takedown of the new state budget proposal sent by state lawmakers to Governor Cooper yesterday.

“Try all they want. Spin gullible reporters, political partisans and unsuspecting citizens all they can. Desperately try to portray a distorted picture of the slap-dash, ideologically slanted North Carolina budget as a masterpiece.

In the end, the budget the leaders of the General Assembly have dictated is a monument to bad management.

It falls damagingly short of serving even the most basic of the state’s priorities. It ill-serves our public education system, those most in need and sells short agencies and individuals seeking to make North Carolina a better place to live and prosper.”

The editorial also skewers one of the legislative leadership’s chief accomplices, the NC Chamber.

“Effective business leaders invest in their employees, provide a work environment that encourages success, set high standards, focus on the future and are positive about the companies they run.

In the General Assembly, the leadership denigrates the state’s employees, short changes the resources they need to do their jobs well, cuts the benefits of new employees (and makes working for the state even less attractive), and rarely misses opportunities to bad-mouth the government and taxpayers who finance their mismanagement.

This malfeasance is aided and abetted by an organization that should be leadership’s harshest foe – the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber has sold its soul, and the state’s economic viability, in return for short-sighted cuts in corporate income and other business taxes, a third-world minimum wage and a neglected workforce.”

The editorial goes on to blast the pork barrel spending that legislative leaders dumped on select Democrats to secure their votes for the plan and heaps special derision on the new expansion of the state’s unaccountable school voucher scheme. Here’s the excellent conclusion: Read more