It was quite a week for Governor Pat McCrory, trying to wiggle out of campaign promises, being rebuffed by lawmakers on an issue affecting his hometown, and attending the first meeting of a new economic development board that begins its work with a blatant conflict of interest.
First the promises. McCrory is under fire for his announcement last week that he would a sign a House bill that restricts access to abortion services after promising during his campaign that he would not sign any legislation that put further restrictions on abortion.
McCrory just didn’t make the promise in off handed remarks or in an answer to some questionnaire. He made it in a televised debate and his vow has been replayed several times in the last two weeks as both the House and Senate passed sweeping attacks on women’s reproductive rights.
McCrory told a Raleigh television station Thursday that he would not be breaking a campaign promise by signing the House bill because the legislation is about ensuring patient safety at abortion clinics and does not limit access to abortion services.
That is simply absurd. The House bill forbids local governments from providing abortion coverage in their employees’ health plans, prohibits insurance plans offered by the health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act from covering abortion services and tells state officials to come up with new regulations for abortion clinics that could force all but one clinic in the state to close.
And if that’s not enough, House Majority Leader Paul Stam admitted in a television interview that one goal of the legislation was to restrict access to abortion.
If McCrory signs the House bill when it gets to his desk, he will be breaking his campaign promise, no matter how hard he tries to claim otherwise.
Then there’s McCrory’s commitment that any tax reform plan approved this year would be revenue neutral, which on most planets means that the new tax structure would bring in the same amount of revenue as the old one. McCrory made the pledge during the campaign and repeated it during his televised State of the State address to the General Assembly in February.
Monday with great fanfare, McCrory announced a tax deal with legislative leaders that would reduce state revenues by $649 million a year when fully implemented.
That is a long way from revenue neutral, though McCrory doesn’t seem too concerned about it. A week before the announcement, McCrory said he now defines revenue neutral as raising enough money to meet the state’s needs.
In other words, it means whatever he says it means to allow him to get away with breaking his promises. Just like “access to abortion services.”
Promises don’t mean much if you simply change what they mean months after you make them.
Then there’s McCrory inability to stand up for his hometown.
State lawmakers gave final approval this week to legislation introduced by Republican Senator Bob Rucho from Charlotte that takes control of the local airport away from the Charlotte City Council and gives it to a new regional airport authority.
The debate about airport has been heated and it’s not over yet. Immediately after the bill gained final approval in the Senate, a judge granted a restraining order blocking the transfer of control of the airport to the newly created authority.
Media accounts of the flurry of activity over the airport bill included the revelation that McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis tried at the last minute to negotiate a compromise to slow down the transfer and begin a study of the issue.
McCrory was unable to convince a majority of lawmakers to go along with the plan and the bill passed and then the courts intervened.
McCrory told a Charlotte reporter that the fight about the airport would not have happened while he was mayor. But it did happen while he was governor and over his objections and efforts to stop it.
What does that say about who is really running state government?
And finally, the latest on that culture of corruption McCrory promised to change.
McCrory attended the first meeting of the new N.C. Economic Development Board this week. That’s the group that will oversee the state’s efforts to recruit industry that often includes cash incentives and tax credits to corporations. The board is chaired by longtime McCrory supporter and one-time campaign manager John Lassiter.
Lassiter is also chair of the Renew North Carolina Foundation, an advocacy group associated with McCrory that is raising anonymous money from corporations and other special interests to further McCrory’s political agenda.
There may not be a perfect definition of the “culture of corruption,” but having the same person ultimately in charge of making incentive deals with companies also asking corporations for anonymous political donations is a pretty good one.
It will be interesting to see McCrory redefine this promise.