RALEIGH – We’re hearing a few interesting things on Jones and Blount streets. Here’s a round-up:
In April, Gov. Pat McCrory appointed current Revenue Secretary Lyons Gray to the N.C. Utilities Commission. Gray is still at Revenue, though, since the legislature will need to confirm that appointment. We’re hearing on Jones Street that a confirmation won’t happen until after budget negotiations are over (see below). In the meantime two candidates have surfaced, according to the whispers around the legislative building.
The front-runner seems to be current Revenue Chief Operating Officer Jeff Epstein, who has been at the Revenue department since April 2013 and is known inside and outside the administration as very knowledgeable and a tireless workhorse. Another advantage Epstein has is that he was acting secretary of the department when Gray was out for medical reasons in 2014, so he has top-level experience.
Also rumored to be interested in the job is Dale Folwell, current head of the Employment Security division at the Commerce Department. Folwell, the former N.C. House member (2005-2012), has a no-nonsense reputation. Working against Folwell might be the rumors that he hopes to run for statewide office in 2016.
It’s no secret that it’s going to take a long time to work through the budget negotiations. We’re hearing that legislative leaders have not decided what members to appoint to the conference committee yet. Instead, leaders are focused on crafting a continuing resolution to fund the government once the fiscal year ends June 30. The continuing resolution, as in past years, may include some budget items on which the two chambers and the the governor can agree.
But McCrory made clear today that he’s not in favor of stuffing the CR, or the budget itself, with policy provisions.
“My goal would be to have as clean a CR as possible,” McCrory said. “I’ve stated my objections in the past to having too much policy in the budget.”
So when will session wrap up? It’s anyone’s guess. One administration official told us September is a good guess. Late last week two lobbyists joked that Halloween would be a safe bet. (At least we think they were joking.)