McCrory takes determined tone

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gov. Pat McCrory sounded a little like Barack Obama during the governor’s first state of the state address Monday, at least in one sense. McCrory put great emphasis on the fact that he inherited problems from his predecessors.
An outdated tax code.

Inadequate computer systems.
“Seat warmers” within the ranks of state employees.
And a $2.5 billion debt to repay the federal government for unemployment benefits.
The governor pushed economic development, education and efficient government, as he did on the campaign trail. But there were new twists in the speech, including palpable frustration. McCrory held up a thick sheaf of paper, saying it was just one report his office was required to send the General Assembly. We have a lot to do, McCrory said in so many words — don’t make us waste time compiling a lot of reports.
His biggest applause line came in reference to unemployment insurance reform. “Borrowing from Washington with no idea or plan on how to pay for it ends with this administration right now,” McCrory said. “We aren’t going to do it any longer.” Let’s hope McCrory never faces the situation Gov. Beverly Perdue and dozens of other governors across the country encountered during the recession — thousands of people out of work and state funds depleted. By November 2010, 31 states had borrowed more than $41 billion from the Federal Unemployment Account, a loan fund set up for this purpose. Nineteen states were still paying the account back as of last month.
Applause also swelled when McCrory said funds from the Education Lottery should “actually be used for education” — Amen! — and suggested the legislature allow school systems to spend lottery funds on school technology and virtual learning. Maybe the governor can speak to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners on that topic. To keep the property tax rate down, Rowan commissioners have always used the schools’ lottery funds to pay off school bonds rather than beef up classroom resources.
McCrory has been in office six weeks, long enough to realize how difficult it will be to mesh the principles and philosophies he espoused on the campaign trail with the realities of state government. He’s stepped on toes on both sides of the aisle, he said, and a couple of times during Monday’s speech he sounded as though someone stepped on his. McCrory may need to wear steel-toed boots — figuratively if not in fact. It will be interesting to see how much he succeeds in changing state government and how much state government changes him.