Grading McCrory's Speech

Published February 18, 2013

By Tom Campbell

By Tom Campbell

Governor Pat McCrory was obviously eager to deliver his state of the state, starting before the 7 o'clock hour and pre-empting network nightly newscasts.  His speech was about 45 minutes long...longer than most had anticipated. It took him a few minutes to get comfortable. Pat McCropry is at his best when he can be personable and speak from talking points. He doesn't like being tightly scripted, but his staff obviously had coached him to stay on script. With his business background it was no surprise that he went about his task in a businesslike basis. We saw some occasional flashes of the likable Pat McCory we saw on the campaign trail but we also saw a Governor with a workmanlike speech to deliver.

He was candid in asking the legislature to give him and his administration some time to fix and reform Medicaid. In one of the few moments of emotion, McCrory paid tribute to his wife and a couple from the Durham Rescue Mission who are working to overcome addiction, demonstrating compassion for those who are fighting addiction problems.

Four major themes stood out in the speech: Education, tax reform, infrastructure improvement and economic development

He once again talked about what he calls the four silos of education: pre-kindergarten, k-12 primary education, community colleges and public universities. He challenged the education cabinet to meet.

McCrory talked about the Mooresville Graded School district that has been an example for how technology can help improve education outcomes, citing that each student above the fourth grade had a laptop computer, mentioning that four year-old children were already learning on technology and implying we need to implement better technology in our classrooms. He got a standing ovation when he also suggested that the education lottery be used for education, saying he wants to change legislation to reallocate the money from bloated advertising campaigns and large administrative costs to the classroom. And he surely pleased educators in advocating more flexibility in the way they spend their money on technology and virtual learning, asking why we could not be ahead of the curve instead of behind it.

McCrory said his number one focus was on the economy and jobs, saying our unemployment rate continues to be 5th highest in the nation. Competition in job creation is tough and other states have caught up with us. We need to develop a long term strategic plan, beginning with tax reform. Our current system out of date, saying he wants a system that is simple, competitive, modern and pro-growth, a system that rewards people and businesses that build things, make things, produce things and innovate. Here he got another standing ovation. He advocates lowering rates on personal and business income taxes, but stopped short of the Senate proposal to eliminate income taxes. He aimed at lobbyists, saying we need to close loopholes for special interests and the reforms need to be transparent.

Pat McCrory indicated he is taking a hands-on approach to selling North Carolina, saying he had been meeting with companies looking to expand or locate in our state since he first took office. He said he would develop the first economic development plan since Governor Martin was in office, saying we needed to recalibrate economic incentives without telling what he meant by that. He talked about increasing exports, especially agricultural exports.

He sounded a real concern for many in rural North Carolina, acknowledging the problems in small towns. The governor pledged to work with these communities because there were too many hurting in these towns. Again, no specific recommendations but at least he acknowledged the problem and no doubt many in rural areas will take some comfort in that.

The Governor promised a strategic long term plan for four areas of our infrastructure, saying it was one of the main roles of government. He listed transportation, water, energy and communications as the major emphasis in his plan, saying we had waited too long to address them and it was crucial we begin now. But he didn't say how he planned to move forward, especially since he had previously said there wasn't going to be any new money. Speculation is that McCrory will propose a major bond package to finance these improvements, but he stopped short of saying so.

McCrory sent a message to the legislature that we cannot be concerned about our legacy, about protecting turf or worried about who gets the credit. He reiterated a theme he sounded on election night that we need to exceed our potential. We need to do it and we must do it.

In summary we would have to say this speech touched on the main points we can expect from the McCrory administration. There wasn't a litany list of where we are today, a listing of problems, or of playing on our emotions. There were not many memorable lines that will be quoted in the next few days and those who hoped for specific recommendations will be disappointed. There were few. Democrats will criticize his lack of compassion for the low income or the unfortunate, claiming that this sounded too pro-business.He failed to talk about the safety net we provide these citizens. But we suspect there was little McCrory was going to say that would have pleased Democrats who are ready to pounce on anything they see as a mistake or weakness. He didn't give them much in that regard. But he also didn't embrace the Tea Party, ultra-right posture. The average North Carolinian was probably watching Jeopardy and wasn't paying attention, but those who did heard a governor who ran as a moderate and mostly spoke as a moderate, a governor who understands his task and is on the job. They always say the devil is in the details and we will have to wait to learn them. We would give Pat McCrory a B for his first state of the state.