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Be sure to check out Tazra Mitchell’s excellent essay over on the main Policy Watch site this afternoon: “Governor McCrory’s flat budget proposal ignores research and reality.” As Tazra explains, the state is cutting essential services to provide enrollment growth increases in education and health care. As a practical matter, everything else remains frustratingly and destructively stuck in neutral:

“With his 2015-2017 budget, Governor McCrory chose to ignore the need for reinvestment in public education, health, safety, and the other programs that improve well-being for us all. Total state investments under his 2016 fiscal year budget proposal would be 6.1 percent below pre-recession levels, adjusting for inflation. North Carolina’s lived experience shows us this is the wrong way to go—in past economic recoveries, state investments returned to and exceeded pre-recession levels far more quickly. Our former leaders understood that investing in the infrastructure of opportunity spurs economic growth.

Governor McCrory’s spending plan, in large part, freezes state investments at a time when his priority should be to roll back harmful budget cuts enacted since the downturn. His budget for the 2016 fiscal year increases year-to-year spending by nearly $439.8 million, or two percent, but the costs of enrollment growth in public schools, the UNC system, and the Medicaid/Health Choice programs are estimated to slightly exceed that year-to-year increase. That means every new dollar, on net, is dedicated to funding enrollment growth rather than replacing budget cuts that stifle economic mobility or pursuing new initiatives to position the state competitively.

And despite promises that the 2013 tax cut for the wealthy would deliver a huge boom to the economy, North Carolina has experienced nothing of the sort. Job growth has largely followed national trends in recent years, but we still have not gotten back to the level of employment—when accounting for population growth—that was the norm before the recession. Wages in North Carolina have slipped further behind the national average and are not even keeping up with inflation, which means many people’s paychecks do not go as far as they did before the downturn.

So the promise of an economic boost from tax cuts has failed to pan out, but state leaders are sticking with those cuts rather than reinvesting in the long-term building blocks of opportunity and prosperity like schools and environmental protection.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Commentary

More lousy national publicity for North Carolina today and its political leadership. The New York Times has joined the list of media outlets to report on the Governor’s failure to grant a pardon to two men (Henry McCollum and Leon Brown) who were wrongfully imprisoned for more than three decades for a crime they did not commit.

In case you’ve already forgotten, the men were released more than six months ago, but have failed to receive a pardon that would open the door to financial compensation for 31 years of their lives that were stolen. This is from the new Times article – “Pardons Elude North Carolina Men Exonerated After Decades in Prison”:

“Mr. McCollum, 50, was released from prison last September after DNA evidence showed that he did not rape and murder a young girl in 1983. But since then, he and his half brother, Leon Brown, who was also exonerated and freed from prison in the same case, have led anything but a glamorous post-prison life. Instead, because of legal decisions made to help accelerate their release, as well as Gov. Pat McCrory’s deliberate approach to granting what is known here as a pardon of innocence, both men have clung to a minimal existence, absent substantive remuneration, counseling or public aid in transitioning back to society….

Mr. McCollum and Mr. Brown each received $45 when they left prison and have lived on charity since. They resided for a time at a home here, where Mr. Brown slept on a couch in one room and Mr. McCollum’s mattress and box spring rested on the floor in another.

Without money for a car or any knowledge about how to drive one, the men walked to a grocery store to buy subsistence fare like canned potatoes and pork and beans. Mr. McCollum, who was a janitor while he was incarcerated, said he wanted to apply for a job, but he was reluctant until he had a pardon.”

Come on, Governor, do the right thing and help these men.

Commentary

In case you missed them over the weekend, there were at least two worth-your-time reads that raised more questions about the openness and transparency of a Governor who had promised to set new standards in those areas.

Number One is a fine essay by Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer entitled “McCrory’s blind spot on ethics.” In it, Barnett rightfully takes the Governor to task for the yawning gap between some of his previous campaign rhetoric and the performance of his administration. Here are some excerpts:

“In his first run for governor in 2008, Pat McCrory fixed on a theme that would prove successful in his second try in 2012. He ran against what he considered the cloaked and unethical conduct of Democrats too long in power….

Now, in the third year of his first term, the words and theme of candidate McCrory have an odd resonance. There’s no evidence that Gov. McCrory has abused his powers, but there is also no evidence that he’s doing much to prevent abuses or dispel the appearance of potential abuses. This ‘reform’ governor is strangely cavalier when it comes to situations that raise ethical questions.”

After reviewing a long list a McCrory ethical lapses, Barnett puts it this way:

“McCrory says he’s getting tripped up because he has been in business rather than being exclusively a public servant. But it hardly seems a case of good-government sticklers picking on private-sector Pat. Rather, McCrory has made a living by mingling his public and private roles and now seems oblivious as to where one ends and the other begins.” (Emphasis supplied.)

Number Two is a brief AP news story in the Fayetteville Observer yesterday entitled “McCrory record seekers met with delays, demands for payments.” As the story reports: Read More

Commentary

Gov. Pat McCrory’s hometown newspaper is out with another blistering editorial directed at the man whose campaign it endorsed in 2012. Today’s subject is the Guv’s inexplicable difficulty in filling out state ethics forms. In an editorial entitled “Those baffling ethics N.C. forms,” the Charlotte Observer puts it this way:

“What is going on in Gov. Pat McCrory’s office? Why do he and his lawyers keep having such a hard time filling out ethics forms correctly?

McCrory was forced to change his state disclosure reports on Monday when it was revealed that he had failed, again, to disclose required information….

Were this the only instance of McCrory filling out ethics forms improperly, it would be worth minimal notice. But it is not. It is a pattern with the McCrory administration: Fill out the ethics form incorrectly, have the ethics commission admonish you for that, then claim that it was an innocent misinterpretation of the form.

For instance, McCrory said on his ethics form that he didn’t own any Duke Energy stock on Dec. 31, 2013, when in fact he did….

McCrory similarly failed to fully disclose on his ethics forms compensation he received from Tree.com as a company director. Again, an unclear form, the governor’s office said.

Partisans are dismissing the latest charge as a political witch hunt by a liberal group. That the complaint came from Progress NC Action does give it a political tint.

But voters should consider the facts and decide whether they are OK with error-filled ethics forms from elected officials of either party. And McCrory should do more to fulfill his campaign promise of leading a clean and transparent administration.”

As noted in this space the other day, the best solution for problems like McCrory’s most recent failure to disclose corporate-funded “scholarships” to fancy gatherings of governors would be for the state to simply bar such gifts. In the meantime, though, the least the Guv can do is tell the truth in a timely fashion.

Commentary

McCollum BrownIf you’re like most people, you probably missed Governor McCrory’s announcement yesterday touting a new state plan to help a peanut operation create 78 jobs over three years in Chowan County. Though all well and good as far as these announcements go, what really stands out about this one was its inclusion of the Governor’s statement that he was especially happy to have pardoned one of the company’s leaders in 2013 for crimes he committed several decades ago.

To which all a caring and thinking person can say in response is: a) Bravo! Thousands of good North Carolinians undoubtedly deserve such second chances, and b) Speaking of which, Governor, what in the heck is going on with the pardon applications of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown?!

McCollum and Brown, you’ll recall, are the half brothers who were found innocent last year of crimes for which they were imprisoned more than 30 years. In other words, they didn’t commit a terrible crime and then later get their lives together; they were wrongfully and horrifically railroaded into prison and served decades for crimes they didn’t commit. McCollum was sentenced to death!

Meanwhile, tomorrow marks the six-month anniversary of the pardon requests the men submitted — a period during which the men have received no compensation for the terrible injustice inflicted upon them by the state of North Carolina. As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported last month:

“The men, who are half-brothers and who are intellectually disabled, were each given $45 in cash when they left prison in September – the sum total of help they have received from the state. They live in Fayetteville with their sister, who struggles to pay the rent and keep the light and water bills paid. They have depended on the kindness of supporters for all their money.

A Superior Court judge declared them innocent in September. North Carolina law authorizes payment of $50,000 a year, up to a maximum of $750,000, to incarcerated individuals later proven innocent. But the brothers first need to obtain a pardon of innocence from the governor.”

Earth to Governor McCrory: The time for action is long past due. Do the right thing and help these men and their families — now. And if you want to learn more about the subject, all you have to do is walk a couple blocks down the street from the mansion and attend a panel discussion that Campbell Law School will be holding Thursday evening. Here are the details: Read More