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Art Pope 3Among the many topics on which Gov. McCrory has made repeated misleading statements and told downright whoppers in recent months, none has been more frequently front and center than unemployment insurance. Time and again, the Guv has claimed that the state did not take away benefits and/or that the reason for the cut off in federal emergency benefits was that it was President Obama’s fault for not granting North Carolina an exemption or allowing the GOP legislature’s changes to be “grandfathered.”

As has been reported repeatedly, however, these claims are simply false. That’s why the Guv has had to issue clarifications and retractions on more than one occasion. The simple truth is that when Congress put extended emergency benefits in place as part of the economic recovery/stimulus law back in 2009, it told states that they could only continue to access those federally-funded benefits if they didn’t cut benefits and eligibility at the state level. This is a standard congressional practice used by leaders of both parties to help make sure that federal initiatives aren’t undercut by free-riding states with no skin in the game. Federal officials repeatedly told North Carolina this and warned them not to cut benefits lest they jeopardize the state’s participation in the federal emergency program.

The state’s response: A big raspberry. Despite the plain warning (and pleas from advocates to merely delay new cuts until 2014 so as not to run afoul of federal law), legislative leaders and Gov. McCrory plunged ahead with unprecedented cuts to benefits and eligibility that were quite possibly the largest in American history. As a result, the federal government was left with no choice but to abide by the congressional mandate and cut North Carolina off July 1.

So why does McCrory keep making the bizarre claim that it was the feds who are responsible for the cuts? We got a hint as to the answer to that question yesterday when State Budget Director Art Pope made his strange appearance at a protest outside his office organized by the NAACP and others.  Read More

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WRAL aired this documentary last night on the state’s new unemployment insurance, focusing on the estimated 170,000 longterm unemployed who were rendered ineligible for federal unemployment help when the N.C. General Assembly adopted changes for the state’s unemployment system.

North Carolina, which has the third highest unemployment in the state, was the only state to reject the federal funds as it sought an expedited way to repay $2.5 billion borrowed by the unemployment system in the height of the recession. Businesses saw a modest increase in what they pay into the system, while the length of time and amount of benefits were significantly reduced for those who find themselves suddenly without jobs.

Veteran WRAL anchor Bill Leslie talked with people whose benefits had been cut off, to see how they’ve fared.

You can watch the video here, or below.

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Gov. Pat McCrory was in Asheville yesterday when he told the Council on Independent Business Owners that changes to the state’s tax and unemployment systems were being misunderstood by the state’s journalists.

From the Mountain XPress, Asheville’s weekly alternative newspaper:

“This is too complex for the journalists,” McCrory said, to laughter from the CIBO members. “They don’t have economics degrees, they’ve not been in business. I respect them greatly, but you get it. This is what we have to do to rebuild our economy. It’s not easy. I empathize with the people being impacted, but my goal is to get these people back into jobs.”

McCrory particularly defended a controversial cut in unemployment benefits. He said that the state asked to lower the benefits to the levels of surrounding states, but the federal government refused, as its commitment to backing and extending unemployment benefits during the financial crisis required states to keep their benefits the same.

He also told the crowd that he wanted to introduce performance pay for teachers but that “the unions are stopping us from doing that,” according to the Mountain Xpress article.

North Carolina, unlike many other states, doesn’t have teacher unions, and has laws that prohibit collective bargaining in public sector jobs like teaching.

Mark Binker over at WRAL, in a post this afternoon, pointed out that McCrory, despite lodging criticism, doesn’t have an economics degree.

We here at N.C. Policy Watch have previously written about other misstatements McCrory has made about this year’s drastic changes to the state’s unemployment system. McCrory has (inaccurately) blamed the Obama Administration for not preventing the July 1 unemployment cliff that led to 70,000 people losing federal unemployment benefits.

Those changes were a result of legislation passed by the N.C. General Assembly and signed into law by McCrory. (Click here to read more.)

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Pat McCrory 4As the national news and opinion stories about North Carolina’s recent disastrous policy turns (especially the decision to terminate federal emergency unemployment benefits) pile up, it’s becoming increasingly clear that this is not good news for any political aspirations that Gov. Pat McCrory might harbor.

While conservatives will dismiss stories in the New York Times, Time, the BBC and various national magazines as merely the work of the “liberal media,” the plain truth is that no one is going to develop any kind of positive national political profile with such coverage. Oh sure, McCrory can — like Scott Walker before him — win the plaudits of Fox News and the Washington Times, but that is simply not going to cut it in the long run with the bulk of the mainstream national political establishment. This is especially true if, Read More

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In case you missed it last Friday, Sabine Schoenbach had a great essay published in Raleigh’s News & Observer on the unemployment insurance debacle. Here’s an excerpt:

“Those going over the cliff are jobseekers, first and foremost, but the job market remains grim. Despite a small improvement in the state’s unemployment rate over the last three months, jobseekers are looking for work in a state with a record number of unemployed workers who have been out of work for a record length of time. There are 4 million unemployed workers chasing just 1.4 million jobs in the entire U.S. South.”

Read the entire piece by clicking here.