Stepping on toes or tripping over his own feet?

Stepping on toes or tripping over his own feet?

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Veto defeats, tax cut proposal punctuate another lousy week for the Governor

Last Wednesday, in a column entitled “McCrory’s defining moments,” Chris Fitzsimon rightfully pointed out that North Carolina’s embattled chief executive was approaching some bellwether days in his governorship. As he noted, “It will be the next few weeks that are likely to define the governorship of Pat McCrory.”

Fitzsimon then went on to explain that three critical and impending tests would “define McCrory’s first four years and his chances to leave a mark on the state he was elected to lead, not to mention his message to voters about why he deserves another term in office”:

1) his performance in defending his vetoes of two high profile bills and delivering on additional promised vetoes,

2) whether he could successfully resist new attempts by Senate leaders to enact what he has called “unwise” tax cuts and

3) his ability to win support for two controversial bond packages he has been flogging.

Nine days later, it’s hard to characterize the Governor’s performance on these tests as anything other than decidedly lackluster and unsuccessful.

The vetoes

The most widely reported developments, of course, have involved test #1 — his ability to defend the vetoes he issued and to follow through on the promise of more to come.

Last week, both the House and Senate easily – almost casually — dismissed McCrory’s veto of House Bill 405, the so-called “Ag Gag” proposal that will make it harder for employees to uncover and report abuse or other unethical activity at their workplace. The votes were 32-16 in the Senate and 79-36 in the House – well over the 3/5 votes that were required.

Those votes came just two days after the Senate had quickly dispatched his veto of the so-called religious freedom bill that would allow magistrates and registers of deed to refuse to marry same sex couples. Yesterday, that veto met an identical, albeit slightly delayed, result in a kangaroo House vote that featured a shameful lack of process.

As to what happened to the other vetoes that the Governor promised two weeks ago in an appearance before economic developers in which he all but taunted lawmakers and accused them of being “scared of their own shadow,” only McCrory knows for sure because no one else ever saw them.

When it came to the bill that almost everyone understood him to be threatening – the proposal to erect a new and dangerous 72-hour waiting period for women seeking to exercise their constitutional right to obtain an abortion that he had promised to veto as a candidate in 2012 – the Governor shrank from a fight and meekly signed the measure.

Tax cuts

The Governor met with similar results on test #2 – whether he could in any way dissuade Senate leaders from plunging ahead with yet another round of destructive tax cuts. As Cedric Johnson of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center explained in great detail yesterday, the new Senate proposal unveiled on Wednesday of this week is another ambitiously regressive boondoggle:

A tax plan state Senate leaders presented this week would promote neither shared economic opportunity nor prosperity across North Carolina. Far from it.

The proposal would cost more than $1 billion in annual revenue loss as the tax plan continues down the path of handing out more costly tax cuts to large, profitable corporations at the expense of everyday North Carolinians.”

How such a plan can be characterized as anything other than an in-your-face raspberry directed at the McCrory administration and the House – both of which rejected the idea of significant tax cuts in their budgets – is difficult to see. The only hopeful thing that one can say about the whole matter at this point is that the contest isn’t over yet. With the Senate expected to roll out and pass its version of the state budget next week and negotiations set to commence after that, there is, at least theoretically, still time for the Governor to prevail. The pathway to success, however, is exceedingly and increasingly murky.

Bonds

Finally, the same thing can also be said on the question of the Governor’s third test – the ambitious pair of bond packages he’s been pushing. While McCrory has, unlike in the other areas, put up a spirited fight for the bonds with a series of public appearances around the state, there is little evidence at this point that they have done much to move skeptical legislative leaders – especially in the Senate.

As is so often the case when it comes to the Governor’s public proclamations and demands, the east side of the Legislative Building seems almost contemptuously unaware and unmoved. Indeed, as a practical matter, on most high profile issues it’s hard to identify any meaningful difference between the relationship the Senate has with Pat McCrory than the one it had with Bev Perdue.

On the ropes?

Last Wednesday, Fitzsimon synopsized the overarching challenge this way:

The question now for McCrory is does he have the determination and political skills to prevent lawmakers from overriding his vetoes and imposing their will on the state despite his objections?”

Today, less than a week and a half later, the increasingly evident answers are: Determination: Meh; Skills: Almost certainly not.

About the author

Rob Schofield, Director of Research, has three decades of experience as a lawyer, lobbyist, writer, commentator and trainer. At N.C. Policy Watch, Rob writes and edits frequent opinion pieces and blog posts, speaks to various civic groups, appears regularly on TV and radio and helps build and develop movements for change.
rob@ncpolicywatch.com
919-861-2065