With the legislative session drawing quickly to a close now is the time when many political observers start analyzing who are the biggest winners and losers of the legislative session. When you take a look back at the 2015 session of the North Carolina legislature, it is quickly apparent that the biggest winner is Gov. Pat McCrory.
Raleigh insiders’ biggest knock against McCrory and his team has been that they are novices when it comes to the legislature and that the governor is weak and ineffective. The results from this year’s legislative session show that is simply not true. In fact this session was a remarkably successful one for Team McCrory as they racked up win after win, especially during the final weeks of session.
McCrory’s biggest win this session may be the NC Connect bond referendum, which thanks to his efforts will be coming to a ballot near you next year. McCrory crisscrossed the state to gin up local support for the bonds – a strategy that proved to be wildly successful for Team McCrory. He was able to effectively make the case for a conservative borrowing plan which one editorial page called “critical for state’s future” and was able to convince a skeptical state Senate to move forward with the plan. If passed, and current polling suggests it has the support of nearly 70 percent of voters, the bond would result in billions for our state’s colleges and universities.
Another big win for the governor is the state budget. After a long and arduous budget fight, McCrory emerged as a clear victor with the budget including many of his top priorities such as:
- Increasing education spending to an all-time high
- Raising starting teachers’ salaries to $35,000
- Keeping Teacher’s Assistants in the classroom
- Fully funding Drivers’ Ed statewide
- Restoring the medical tax deduction providing much needed tax relief for North Carolina’s seniors
- Additional tax relief for North Carolina families and businesses, bringing the total amount of tax relief delivered under governor McCrory’s watch is now up to $4.4 billion
- Restoring our historic tax credits, which enable our cities and towns to restore and renovate historic buildings creating centers of economic development. (These credits have historically been very successful, making money for the state and leading to the revitalization of downtown areas across the state. They have been copied by a number of states including South Carolina.)
- Creating a Department of Military and Veterans Affairs which will be a one-stop shop for helping our servicemen and women and their families
- Establishing a Department of Information Technology which will lead to sizable savings for taxpayers and will further the governor’s herculean efforts to modernize state government
- Reorganizing the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality, consolidating the management of all state parks and attractions under one agency to make state government more effective and efficient
Other key victories for the governor in this session include Medicaid reform and restoring Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) funds.
Medicaid reform has been a top priority for McCrory and his administration from day one and the reform package he just signed into law is a result of three years of hard work and gathering input from medical providers, taxpayers, legislators and Medicaid recipients. This reform package is a win-win for the state because its patient-centered reform focused on offering more choices for patients, improving care quality and patients’ health and controlling costs for the state.
Winning the battle to restore JDIG funding has resulted in $20 million of “continuous funds available for new commitments to invest in growing jobs in North Carolina” and made $15 million dollars available for incentive grants for a “high yield” project such as an auto manufacturing plant. This victory will allow McCrory and his team to build on the great work they’ve already done recruiting new industry to North Carolina and encouraging existing businesses to expand here. Since McCrory took office, North Carolina’s unemployment rate is down 3 percentage points, North Carolina’s job growth is now consistently higher than the national average and nearly 200,000 new private-sector jobs have been created.
When you consider the number of legislative wins McCrory scored in this legislative session alone the criticism that McCrory is a weak leader who can’t get his agenda through the legislature no longer holds water (if it ever did). When you add to this that McCrory and his team pulled off these victories during a session that featured an unusual amount of infighting between the House and Senate, McCrory’s ability to achieve legislative success looks even more remarkable.
As he enters an election year, McCrory will be able to tell a compelling story of the kind of results that effective, conservative governance can achieve for the people of North Carolina.
Andy Yates is senior partner and co-founder at Red Dome Group, a Republican political consulting, issue advocacy, and public affairs firm based in North Carolina and operating national. Yates was recently named as a “Rising Star” by Campaigns & Elections Magazine.