by Tom Campbell
Pat McCrory ran a winning gubernatorial campaign and now faces the even larger task of governing. The decisions he makes in the next six weeks could determine the success of his administration. We will get an early indication of McCrory’s priorities when he names cabinet secretaries.
Perhaps no appointment will be more critical than that of Secretary of Health and Human Services. Under the best of circumstances this is the largest and most difficult agency in state government to manage. The next Secretary needs a good working knowledge in public health, mental health and Medicaid, especially with urgent concerns regarding adult care homes and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Knowledge of health issues is important but the new Secretary must first and foremost be a highly competent administrator.
Equally important will be the new Commerce Secretary, who will help implement the governor’s economic development plans in this lagging economy. Governor-elect McCrory set two job creation goals: reducing our unemployment rate to below that of South Carolina by the end of his first year and below the Southeast by the end of his first term. Using the September rates as a benchmark means 23,000 must find employment in 2013 to best South Carolina. Adding to the woes is the three billion dollar debt owed the federal government to pay unemployment benefits coupled with the reality that the final extended unemployment insurance benefits for long term unemployed workers is set to expire at the end of this year. We will watch to see if the McCrory economic development plan continues to offer large incentives to prospective employers.
Education reform was a frequent campaign issue and this governor can affect public education more dramatically and quickly than any governor in recent history by naming the Chair and majority of members to the State Board of Education. The last General Assembly refused to confirm Governor Perdue’s appointments, an action many considered unconstitutional, so with a Republican Lieutenant Governor, Republican legislature and control of the State Board McCrory can quickly put his stamp on education.
Tax reform was another campaign priority and the naming of the Secretary of Revenue, State Budget Director and legislative liaison will determine how well he might accomplish tax cuts, broadening the tax base and/or reducing state budgets. The Secretary of Transportation appointment is important in this era of increasing population and dwindling transportation revenues. Mayor McCrory was a champion for light rail in Charlotte and many will be watching to see if he inserts more mass transit into what has predominantly been a highway department.
Crime Control, Corrections and Cultural Resources are important cabinet level appointments, especially when declining budgets threaten the maintenance and availability of historic sites. On the campaign trail McCrory promised to ease burdens of regulation, making the appointments of Secretary of Administration and Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources important, especially in a time when energy exploration is a major issue.
Candidate McCrory often talked about leading a “Carolina Comeback” to redefine and regain momentum. Major policy and as many as 1,000 personnel decisions now await his approval. Governor-elect McCrory has much to do in the six critical weeks before he takes the oath of office and every North Carolinian should wish for him wisdom, courage and strength.