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Pat McCrory 4Maybe it’s the ongoing game of musical chairs in Gov. Pat McCrory’s communications staff or maybe it’s just the man himself, but whatever it is, the Governor’s public pronouncements continue to be peppered with admissions and allegations that bespeak a remarkable degree of obliviousness to the facts and the implications of his administration’s policies.

Yesterday morning’s announcement on raising teacher pay for new teachers featured a classic example. As the Governor began his remarks on his proposal and attempted to lay out the groundwork for it, he made the following rather amazing (and, one has to note, grammatically-challenged) admission:

“Today sadly, the starting teacher pay in North Carolina makes only $30,800. You know, that’s not even enough to raise a family or to pay off student loans, which this new generation of teachers are having to borrow money to go to college at this point in time. How do we expect someone to pay back that loan at that starting salary?”

While the Guv deserves an “attaboy” for making such a statement (yes, teachers make too little and government should do something about it!) he deserves nothing but a big “what the heck?!” for the stunning hypocrisy and lack of awareness it shows with respect to so many of his other policies. Read More

N.C. Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos announced at a legislative hearing this morning that her department met a federal deadline yesterday to clear a backlog of families waiting for emergency food assistance.

Wos told lawmakers that “Herculean efforts” were used by county-based and state workers to address more than 23,000 households that, in late January, had been waiting weeks or months for federally-funded food stamps.

DHHS used 290 state state, hired temporary workers, made home visits and used volunteer time offered by a handful of legislative assistants to meet the deadline, she said.

She said there were only 25 cases remaining of the thousands the U.S. Department of Agriculture called to be eliminated. The federal agency threatened withholding $80 million in funding in December and January if North Carolina didn’t quickly address the issue.

The logjam of cases first began popping up last spring as the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services implemented pieces of a complex benefits delivery system called NC FAST that county-level workers had difficulty maneuvering or even getting to work in some case.

“I can assure you that DHHS will continue to work as aggressively as we have,” Wos said.

While both Republican and Democratic lawmakers said they were pleased the vast majority of the backlog had been handled, some expressed concern about how long it took the state agency to ensure needy families were getting food.

“I’m very gratified that we finally have this backlog behind us,” said state Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat. “The thing that disappoints me that is that it took seven months to address the backlog and we had several thousand people harmed in the process.”

Updated caseload numbers are available here and here. The USDA deadline for the agency was to clear a backlog of cases of the most hard-pressed families, many of them  in emergency situations.

The agency will need to clear the entire backlog or food stamp applications and recertifications by March 31, currently at 14,333 recertifications and 754 applications, according to DHHS documents. (13,821 of the recertifications are only one to 14 days behind, and are considered “timely” by DHHS and USDA)

Below is the letter that Wos sent to USDA officials yesterday.

USDA February 10 2014 by NC Policy Watch

 

Coal ashThis week’s top laugh-out-loud headline comes directly from the office of Governor McCrory, which had the chutzpah to send out a news release yesterday afternoon with the following headline: “Governor McCrory Directs Duke Energy to Bring Coal Ash Spill Under Control.”

What? The Duke people hadn’t considered doing this during the four days since the spill commenced? And now that their former mid-level P.R. staffer has gotten around to speaking out, they’re going to act? Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Earth to Governor McCrory: How about issuing a directive that might actually have an impact — something like telling your DENR Secretary to stop eviscerating his department and its mission and telling your buddies over at the General Assembly that you’re no longer going to be a party to their ongoing efforts to sell, develop, pave, frack and poison every square inch of land, every gallon of water and every breath of fresh air in our rapidly deteriorating natural environment?

For more info on the Dan River disaster check out this slide show from the good folks at the N.C. Conservation Network.

In good news on the government accountability front this week, Governor McCrory and Commerce Secretary Decker put the brakes on privatizing the state’s economic development efforts, postponing the creation of the new nonprofit development corporation until the start of the new fiscal year in July. Ostensibly, the move is intended to make sure the transition to this new public-private partnership goes as smoothly as possible, given the catastrophic mistakes and complete lack of accountability suffered by other states when trying this approach. And the legislature would like to weigh in as well, given that the authorizing bill for all this never passed last year.

So it’s worth taking advantage of this pause in the rush to privatization to ensure that the state’s economic development efforts remain both effective and accountable. Fortunately, North Carolina has a long tradition of accountability in business development, a point made in a well-timed study released this week by national economic development watchdog Good Jobs First, and this is a tradition the state should continue.

According to the report, the Tarheel State has the third best accountability system in the country in terms of monitoring and disclosing whether companies live up to their promises of job creation.

This is a tradition that the state needs to continue and extend to the activities of the new development corporation, including the private sector donors and the proposed closing fund.