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Medicaid expansionIn case you missed them while scraping your windshield earlier today, there are two new lead stories  over on the main Policy Watch site today that will be worth a few minutes of your time.

This morning’s Weekly Briefing is an open letter to the one man in North Carolina politics with the clout (and, one hopes, the human decency) to set politics aside and guarantee access to health care for hundreds of thousands of people like Dana Wilson.

Meanwhile, this afternoon’s Fitzsimon File examines what was certainly the strangest claim in GovernorWorkers comp McCrory’s State of the State speech and its apparent origins with a little known administration official who seems to be keeping some odd and perhaps worrisome ties to the private sector.

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Photo: WRAL.com

Photo: WRAL.com

As we noted in this space yesterday morning, there were some things to like in Gov. Pat McCrory’s State of the State speech Wednesday evening. For the most part, the Governor sounded more like good ol’ Moderate Mayor Pat rather than the champion of reactionary change who signed some of the nation’s most extreme legislation during his first two years in office.

Still, there were moments when Ebenezer Scrooge McCrory was on display — perhaps most notably when he talked about unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation. In both segments, the Governor’s message was as clear as it was callous and offensive: the Governor believes (and his policies are premised on the notion) that large numbers of North Carolina workers are lazy and don’t want to work.

How else to explain his crowing about having enacted the harshest unemployment insurance cuts in U.S. history and then repeatedly professing a desire to create jobs for all who “want to work”? And if one had any idea that these repeated references were simply an awkward if unnecessary nod to retired folks and, perhaps, the disabled, these were pretty thoroughly trashed when the Governor went off on a lengthy diatribe about how his “examination of workers compensation estimates that 40 percent of workers costs are related to abuse or outright fraud.”

Say what, Governor? Do you really believe that large numbers of people don’t want to work and that that’s why some were surviving on unemployment insurance during the Great Recession? Do you really believe that two out of five worker’s comp claims are bogus?

If so, perhaps you should have checked ahead of time with Rep. Jason Saine. Saine, of course, is the GOP state lawmaker who only managed to get off unemployment insurance by getting elected to the House of Representatives.

Or, perhaps he could have talked with one of the state’s most respected and experienced worker’s comp lawyers — Raleigh’s Leonard Jernigan. As WRAL.com reported this morning: Read More

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McCrory SOS

Photo: WRAL.com

Be sure to check out today’s Fitzsimon File for a more thorough reaction to last night’s State of the State speech. For now, however, here are few preliminary observations:

The good: Pat McCrory can display a winning personality and there’s a reason he’s won a lot of elections. Even with all the mispronunciations and malapropisms, he can be very likeable and sincere. This was on display last night as he related stories about dirty water fountains, his first job as a student teacher and driving on North Carolina highways. He’s not a fat cat or a right-wing ideologue at heart — which partially explains why he’s often so bad at playing those roles on TV. The Governor likes tangible things to fix — which is one of the reasons he’s much better at talking about rehabilitating run down state buildings than discussing large, overarching issues like taxes and health care.

The bad: Unfortunately, the Governor just doesn’t seem to (or doesn’t want to) grasp the enormous gap that exists between his rhetoric (and his espoused ideal of Eisenhower Republicanism) and the policies that he has implemented over the past 25 months. Simply put, a genuine Eisenhower Republican would not have helped impose the most draconian unemployment insurance cuts in American history, enacted huge tax giveaways to the top 1%, denied affordable health insurance to hundreds of thousands of working North Carolinians or presided over the decimation of the state agency charged with protecting our rapidly declining natural environment.

The ugly: The most disappointing moment in the speech came Read More

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RPeople_16_Teacher_Blackboardaleigh’s News & Observer has obtained a recording of a virtual, two-minute talk that Gov. Pat McCrory gave in January to GOP legislators (the Guv was apparently fighting a cold — what he called the “Carolina Crud” — which may explain why he wasn’t there in person). The talk was about the Guv’s education agenda and while it contains little that we haven’t heard before, a couple of things stand out with respect to the issue of teacher pay:

Number One is that McCrory is still fixated on new teachers. He calls for raising the floor to $35,000 but says nothing about veteran teachers largely neglected by last year’s convoluted pay raise scheme.

Number Two and perhaps most troubling and perplexing is the Guv’s statement that teacher pay should, in part, be a function of the “marketability” of the teacher’s skills. What does that mean?

If it means that the teacher could get a better deal in another state to be a fourth grade teacher than she can get in North Carolina, well then it would seem that just about all of our teachers have great “marketability.” Providing raises on such grounds would make some sense.

If, on the other hand, it means (as one would suspect) that McCrory wants to start paying math teachers or computer science teachers (or football coaches) more than amazing veteran Kindergarten teachers, English teachers or Special Ed teachers because they might be able to earn more in the “free market,” then that is a potential problem. Read More

Commentary

McC709Maybe Gov. Pat McCrory will continue to cruise along as the state’s ribbon-cutter-in-chief in 2015 and leave all the real governing decisions to legislative leaders for yet another year. It’s certainly conceivable that he could eke out reelection next year by pursuing such a strategy so long as urban areas of the state continue to enjoy the moderate growth that’s accompanied the national economic recovery.

However, if the Guv wants to be taken seriously and be seen as anything other than a glorified errand boy for Senators Phil Berger and Tom Apodaca, he must stake out a strong position on a high profile issue and dictate the result. And, no, some relatively minor matter like historic tax credits isn’t enough to get the job done.

No, the only issue that really stands out in this area as the means for McCrory to truly establish himself as Governor is Medicaid expansion. McCrory knows it’s the right thing to do. He knows it will save thousands of lives and pump billions into the state’s economy. He knows that a huge and important segment of the business community is for it. Heck, his DHHS Secretary has already endorsed the idea. And he knows that the Senate leaders stand in the way.

All that remains for a real and definitive battle to ensue is, as we noted as few weeks back, is for McCrory to find his inner Jim Hunt, grab the elephants down the street by the ears and lead. For once, McCrory must find a way to bend the General Assembly to his will, rather than the other way around.

So, which will it be in 2015 — McCrory the would-be general or McCrory the same ol’ doormat?  What the man says or doesn’t say about Medicaid expansion in tonight’s State of the State speech should give us a pretty clear indication.